Possessive Pronouns in English Grammar

Possessive Pronouns in English Grammar

Possessive pronouns show ownership and indicate that something belongs to someone particular. With their help, we can make a possessive phrase shorter.

Possessive Pronouns in English Grammar

Possessive Pronouns

There are a number of ways to show ownership and possession in English; one of the ways is to use possessive pronouns to show that somebody/something belongs to somebody/something. Like other pronouns, these pronouns can replace nouns or noun phrases to avoid repetition.

English possessive pronouns

In the table below you can see English possessive pronouns:

Subject Pronouns Possessive Pronouns
I Mine
You Yours
He His
She Hers
It Its
We Ours
You Yours
They Theirs

Let us see some examples for more clarity:

Based on my father’s will , the condo is now ours .

Instead of saying ‘the condo now belongs to us’, you can use the sentence above which is shorter and more straight forward.

Judith is standing over there ; the puppy must be hers .

Instead of saying 'the puppy must belong to her', you can use 'hers' which is shorter.

Beware!

Notice that when you use possessive pronouns or possessive determiners, you do not need an article (a, an, the).

Possessive Pronouns vs. Possessive Determiners

Another way of showing possession and belonging is using possessive determiners (adjectives). Basically, the difference between these two types of possessives is that possessive determiners cannot be used alone and they always need another noun after them, but possessive pronouns always stand alone.

English Possessive Determiners

In this table you can see a list of English possessive determiners:

Subject Pronouns Possessive Determiners (adjectives)
I My
You Your
He His
She Her
It Its
We Our
You Your
They Their

A : Is that your car ?

B : No , the black Impala is mine .

In the first sentence of the conversation, after 'your' we have a noun. In the second sentence, you can use ‘mine’ instead of ‘my car’ to avoid repetition.

When to Use Possessive Pronouns instead of Determiners

There are cases in which it is better to use a possessive pronoun instead of a determiner+noun:

  • You can use possessive pronouns instead of noun phrases and emphasize the possession rather than the noun;

A : Can you tell me which one is your child ?

B : The little girl in the green dress is mine .

‘Mine’ is used instead of the noun phrase, ‘my child’.

A : This handwriting is awful ! Is it yours ?

B : No , but it looks like Anna’s ; I think it’s hers .

Instead of using ‘Anna’s handwriting’, you can use ‘Anna’s’ and ‘hers’.

  • You can use these pronouns to make double genitives; these are structures made by a possessive noun/pronoun following the preposition ‘of’. By possessive noun, we simply mean a noun with the possessive ‘s’.

Julia is a colleague of mine ; I’d like to invite her to the party .

Instead of saying; Julia is my colleague , we can also say; Julia is a colleague of mine.

I’m a friend of Lucy’s ; can I come in ?

instead of saying; I'm Lucy's friend, we can also say ;I’m a friend of Lucy’s. Be careful not to forget the ('s) after Lucy.

When to Use Possessives

The most important use of possessives (determiner and pronouns) is to show possession and belonging, but they have uses beyond that as well. Possessive can also be used to show:

  • the relationship between the person who possesses and someone else: my mother, her husband
  • to refer to a part of a person’s body or thing: His arm, the table’s legs
  • to indicate a person or thing related to a person: my classmates, your hometown
  • to represent the person who does or undergoes an action: We waited at the airport until his departure.
  • to refer to the creator, user, etc. of the thing in possession: Queen’s last song, their last song

Asking Questions about Possession

‘Whose’ is an interrogative pronoun and it helps with making questions and asking about possessions. Basically, in questions with ‘whose’, you are looking for the owner. The questions with ‘whose’ can mostly be answered with possessive pronouns. Take a look at these examples:

A : Whose house is that ? It’s gorgeous !

B : It’s mine .

Instead of repeating the question and answering ‘It’s my house’, you can easily answer by using the possessive pronoun ‘mine.’

A : Whose dog is this ?

B : I don’t know . Maybe it’s his .

notice

Notice that the possessive determiner and possessive pronoun for ‘he’ are both 'his'.

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