Partitives are used to refer to an amount or number of something. Follow the article to learn more about them.

Partitives in the English Grammar

What Are Partitives?

Partitives are words or phrases that are used to express a part of a whole. In English grammar, partitives are often used with uncountable nouns or plural countable nouns.

Partitives: Types

There are two types of partitives:

  1. Definite partitives
  2. Indefinite partitives

Definite Partitives

'Definite partitives' are used to refer to an exact amount or number of something. Definite partitives can be used before countable or uncountable nouns. Here are some of the most common definite partitives:

  1. Spoon of
  2. Bunch of
  3. Flock of
  4. Bottle of
  5. Piece of
  6. Slice of
  7. Glass of

These partitives are always followed by the preposition 'of' and we can use articles before them. Check out the examples:

Add two glasses of milk to the mixture.

They bought six pairs of shoes for the poor.

The girl had only one piece of cake.

Indefinite Partitives

'Indefinite partitives' are used to refer to an indefinite, or unexact number or amount of something. Here are some of the most important indefinite partitives:

using the partitive 'piece of' in a sentence

Take a look at some examples with indefinite partitives:

A lot of our students passed the exams.

Many of his friends were doctors.

Pour some of the water on her face.

Concrete or Abstract Nouns?

'Partitives' can define the amount or number of both concrete and abstract nouns. Pay attention to the examples:

We watched a flock of birds fly by.

He came up with a bunch of excuses for his late arrival.

I have cut a pile of wood.

Partitives: Structure

Here are the common rules governing the use of partitives in English. Learning the rules helps you understand them better.

1- Pre-determiners

An important point to remember is that partitive phrases are always used as 'pre-determiners.' This is why we can use articles or other determiners after them. For example:

Lots of the animals were hunted by the hunters. → with determiner (the)

A group of her students protested against the injustice regarding the exams. → with determiner (her)

Two cloves of garlic were used to make the sauce. → without determiner


Some indefinite partitives can be used without the preposition 'of'. In this case, they function as indefinite quantifiers that are used as post-determiners. Here are some examples:

Some animals live on farms.

Those many moments together make it hard to forget her.

2- Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Countable nouns are always used in plural form after the partitives, while uncountable nouns are always used in singular form after them. Check out the examples:

Some of the workers are not satisfied with the boss.

Use a spoonful of sugar in your coffee.

3- Plural Partitives

You can use a 'plural partitive' if it corresponds to the meaning of the sentence. Check out the examples:

Lots of fruits were grown on this farm.

We have bought two pairs of pants.


Partitives are words that are used before a noun to refer to only a part of the particular noun. There are two types of partitives as follows.

  1. Definite partitives
  2. Indefinite partitives


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