Possessive Pronouns

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

What Are Possessive Pronouns?

Like other pronouns, possessive pronouns can replace nouns or noun phrases and demonstrate a relationship of possession or ownership.

English Possessive Pronouns

In the table below, English possessive pronouns are represented along with their corresponding subject pronouns:

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

Pay attention to the examples:

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

Instead of saying 'the condo now belongs to us,' you can use a possessive pronoun which is shorter and more straightforward.

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.

Warning

Remember, 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 indicating possession and belonging is through the use of possessive determiners. The main difference between these two types of possessives is that possessive determiners cannot be used alone and must always be followed by a noun, whereas possessive pronouns can stand alone without a noun.

A : Is that your car?

B : No, the black Impala is mine.

In the first sentence of the conversation, 'your' is followed by a noun, which makes it a possessive determiner. In the second sentence, the possessive pronoun 'mine' is used instead of 'my car' to avoid repetition.

When to Use Possessive Pronouns instead of Determiners

In some contexts, it is better to use a possessive pronoun instead of a determiner + noun:

  • You can use possessive pronouns instead of noun phrases to 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 that consist of a possessive noun or pronoun following the preposition 'of.' The term 'possessive noun' refers to 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?

Be careful not to forget the ('s) after Lucy.

When to Use Possessives

The most important use of possessives (determiners and pronouns) is to show possession and belonging, but they can also be used to show:

Showing ownership with possessive pronouns

  • the relationship between the possessor 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 relationship between people or things: 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 speech, their last song

Asking Questions about Possession

'Whose' is an interrogative pronoun that is used to ask about ownership or possession. When used in questions, 'whose' is seeking to identify the owner of the item in question. Responses to 'whose' questions often consist of 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,' the possessive pronoun 'mine' can be used.

A : Whose dog is this?

B : I don't know. Maybe it's his.

Warning

Keep in mind that the possessive determiner and possessive pronoun for 'he' are both 'his.'

Review

We use possessive determiners and possessive pronouns to show belonging. So, let us see what their functions are.

  • Possessive pronouns: are used alone in the place of subject or object.
  • Possessive determiners (adjectives): are used before nouns.
Possessive Pronouns Possessive Determiners (adjectives)
mine my
yours your
his his
hers her
- its
ours our
yours your
theirs their

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