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.
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|
Let us see some examples for more clarity:
Instead of saying ‘the condo now belongs to us’, you can use the sentence above which is shorter and more straight forward.
Instead of saying 'the puppy must belong to her', you can use 'hers' which is shorter.
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)|
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;
‘Mine’ is used instead of the noun phrase, ‘my child’.
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’.
Instead of saying; Julia is my colleague , we can also say; Julia is a colleague of mine.
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:
Instead of repeating the question and answering ‘It’s my house’, you can easily answer by using the possessive pronoun ‘mine.’
Notice that the possessive determiner and possessive pronoun for ‘he’ are both 'his'.