Possessives

Possessives are used to indicate possessions. In this lesson, we will discuss the different types of possessives, including nouns, determiners, and pronouns.

intermediate
Possessives in the English Grammar

What Are Possessives?

Possessives are comprised of different forms that we use to talk about possessions and relationships between things and people.

Possessives: Nouns

In order to show possession or relation between two nouns, you can add 's to the first noun that can be singular. For example:

Sarah played with her friend's dollhouse.

Her friends owns the dollhouse.

We are having a party at John's house.

For regular plural nouns, simply add ' to the first noun to show possession. But, if the plural noun is irregular (does not have -s in the end) add 's. For example:

This is my parents' house.

These are men's pants.

Possessives: Determiners

Possessive determiners are a kind of determiners that show who possesses something. The possessive determiners are:

Possessives Determiners
first person, singular my
second person, singular or plural your
third person, singular, masculine his
third person, singular, feminine her
third person, singular its
first person, plural our
third person, plural their

Note that they must be followed by a noun or a noun phrase. Take a look at some examples:

My kind father is a dentist.

His car is very expensive.

Possessives: Pronouns

Possessive pronouns replace nouns in a sentence and show a noun's possession or ownership. Additionally, they are used to avoid repetition of nouns in a sentence. English possessive pronouns are:

Possessives Pronouns
first person, singular mine
second person, singular or plural yours
third person, singular, masculine his
third person, singular, feminine hers
first person, plural ours
third person, plural theirs

Note that they must stand alone and are not followed by a noun or a noun phrase. Take a look at some examples:

Whose hat is this? Is it yours?

Your house is big and mine is small.

mine = my house

We can use possessive pronouns and nouns after of. For example:

Marcus is a friend of mine.

Possessives: Questions

'Whose' is used to ask which person or people has a particular thing. In other words, we use whose to ask questions about possession. For example:

Whose book is this? It is mine./It is my book.

Whose is this book?

Tip

You can show possession and belongings with the preposition of. Like:
A friend of mine = possession
A house of his = belonging

Possessives: Functions

1. One of the basic functions of the possessive is to talk about 'belonging' or 'ownership'. For example:

You can stay at our house.

the building's doors

2. Possessives also show where someone works, or studies. For example:

This is Mary's school. Mary goes to this school.

3. Possessives can also talk about a relationship between people:

John's mother

the child's father

4. Sometimes we can use possessives to relate an intangible thing (like a feeling, a thought, etc.) or an abstract thing to a person. For example:

Jeff's enthusiasm

the child's cough

Sara's happiness

5. Possessives can also be used to refer to shops, restaurants, churches, and colleges, using the name or job title of the owner:

Let's go to Alexandro's for lunch.

Meet you at McLaren's!

6. Possessives also show that a noun is interpreted or described by another noun. For example:

Shakespeare's London

Pluto's philosophy

7. Possessives can be used to identify the creator, author, or originator of another noun. Take a look at these examples:

J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter

the author's poems

Tip!

There are some fixed expressions in which the possessive form is used. For example:

  • For God's sake
  • in my mind's eye
  • a day's work

For God's sake, stop that right now!

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