Possessive Adjectives: All You Need to Know About These Essential Words

What are possessive adjectives? There are a variety of different types of adjectives within the English language, and it may seem confusing. But it doesn’t need to be. In this article, we are going to be looking at the possessive adjective and how it can be used in a sentence. We are also going to be looking at some examples of possessive adjectives to further gain an understanding of their function.

Key Takeaways

  • Possessive adjectives are used to indicate ownership and always precede nouns.
  • They are distinct from possessive pronouns, which replace nouns.
  • There are three types of possessive adjectives: first person, second person, and third person. 

What Is A Possessive Adjective?

Possessive Adjectives in English: Definition and ExamplesPin

In the most simple terms, a possessive adjective is an adjective that shows possession. This type of adjective is always used before a noun as a way of showing what or who owns it.  

The most common examples of possessive adjectives are as follows:

  • my
  • your
  • his
  • her
  • their
  • its
  • our
  • whose

Let’s take a look at some of these being used in a sentence.

  • This is my ball.
  • Her house is larger than your house.
  • Will you be going to his birthday party?
  • Have you seen our new website?

You can see in the above examples, that the possessive adjectives show who each noun belongs to.

Subject Pronouns and Their Possessive Adjectives

Each of the possessive adjectives corresponds to its own personal pronoun, as follows:

Possessor Possessive Adjective Example
I my My bag
You your Your dog
He his His shoes
She her Her tablet
It its Its color
We our Our house
They their Their cats

It may come as a surprise to learn that possessive adjectives can also function as a pronoun, this is because they are able to replace a pronoun in a sentence and still carry the same meaning, let’s take a look at an example of this.

  • Is this Sally’s jacket?
  • No, it’s her coat.

You can see that the pronoun Sally has been replaced with the possessive adjective her which can also serve as a pronoun.

Possessive Adjective Examples

  • It is my pen.
  • Your house is really beautiful.
  • Her temper hasn’t improved with age!
  • Never judge something by its looks.
  • This is our website.
  • Their living room is equipped with all kinds of modern appliances.

Types of Possessive Adjectives

In English, possessive adjectives are used to indicate ownership or relationships between entities. They modify nouns or pronouns, and are classified into three categories based on the person they represent: first person, second person, and third person.

First Person

First-person possessive adjectives are used to represent possession or a relationship involving the speaker:

Singular – “my”: representing the speaker’s possession

  • Examples: my book, my job, my friend

Plural – “our”: representing the possession of a group that includes the speaker

  • Examples: our house, our project, our memories

Second Person

Second-person possessive adjectives involve the person being spoken to directly:

Singular and plural – “your”: representing possession by the person or people addressed

  • Examples: your car, your dress, your opinions, your responsibilities

Third Person

Third-person possessive adjectives represent ownership or relationships involving other people or things:

Singular

“His”: for male possession

  • Examples: his wallet, his decision, his ambition

“Her”: for female possession

  • Examples: her bag, her skills, her family

“Its”: for non-human possession (objects, animals, or concepts)

  • Examples: its color, its tail, its importance

Plural – “their”: representing possession by a group not including the speaker or the person(s) being addressed

  • Examples: their goals, their culture, their legacy

Possessive Adjectives vs. Possessive Pronouns

Possessive adjectives, also known as possessive determiners, are used to show ownership or a relationship between one thing or person and another. In English, the possessive adjectives are my, your, his, her, its, our, and their. They are placed before the noun they modify to indicate ownership or belonging. For example:

  • This is my book.
  • She is wearing her coat.
  • They love their new home.

On the other hand, possessive pronouns are used to replace the noun and the possessive adjective altogether, to avoid repetition. They are mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs. Take these examples:

  • This book is mine.
  • The coat is hers.
  • The new home is theirs.

It is important to distinguish between these two types of possessives to ensure accurate and clear communication. Here is a table to help illustrate the differences:

Subject Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun
I my mine
you your yours
he his his
she her hers
it its its
we our ours
they their theirs

Common Mistakes with Possessive Adjectives

As with any area of grammar within the English language, there are certain rules which must be followed when using the possessive adjective. However, these are easy to understand and we are now going to look at them in a little more detail.

Its vs. It’s

It is a common mistake to use an apostrophe with the possessive adjective ‘its’ when it is not required. We use an apostrophe with the word its when it is being shortened from it has or it is, since a possessive adjective does not fall into the category, it NEVER needs an apostrophe.

Your vs. You’re

Similarly to the above, many people confuse the use of your and you’re. When using a possessive adjective, you should always use ‘your.’ The word ‘you’re’ is a shortened form of ‘you are’ and is not appropriate for use as a possessive adjective.

Their, they’re, and there

One of the most common gripes of English grammar and spelling enthusiasts is the confusion between the three forms of the sound ‘their, they’re and there ‘ When using this as a possessive adjective, you should always use the spelling ‘their’ as the two others mean completely different thing. (There refers to the location and they’re is a shortened version of they are.)

Whose vs Who’s

Finally, people might often mistake the possessive adjective whose for the word who’s; however, this is not the correct spelling and is a shortened form of ‘who is.’

Use of his, her, and its

When talking about people in general in English, there is not a gender-specific word; however, there is the possessive adjective ‘its’ which is commonly used when ‘their’ should be used. Let’s take a look at an example.

  • Each parent is in charge of his or her own child.

Whilst this sentence is correct, it is somewhat wordy and so many people might use its instead. But this is not correct.

  • Each parent is responsible for its own child. (incorrect)

The following sentence is what should be used.

  • Each parent is in charge of their own child.

Difference between Subject Pronoun and Possessive Adjective

  • Subject pronouns are I, you, he, she, it, we, they. Subject pronouns usually occur before a verb.

For example:

He is an English teacher.

They want to learn Chinese.

  • Possessive adjectives are my, your, his, her, its, our, their. Possessive adjectives occur before a noun (her hair) or a an adjective + noun (her new hair).
  • Possessive adjectives have no singular or plural. They are used with both singular and plural nouns (his ball, his balls).
  • Subject pronouns + verb
  • Possessive adjectives + (adjectives) + noun

The possessive adjective is used to show who is the owner of the noun. There are quite a few rules and common mistakes which are made when using possessive adjectives, but these can be avoided by taking the time to learn the rules and create grammatically correct sentences.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns?

Possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns both show ownership, but they are used differently. Possessive adjectives (my, our, your, his, her, its, their) are used to modify a noun, while possessive pronouns (mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, theirs) can stand alone to replace a noun and show ownership.

Can you provide some example sentences using possessive adjectives?

Here are a few examples:

  • She likes her new shoes.
  • I lost my keys.
  • Their house is near the park.

What are common exercises for practicing possessive adjectives?

Common exercises for practicing possessive adjectives involve filling in the blanks, matching the correct possessive adjectives to the nouns, and rewriting sentences using possessive adjectives. You can also practice by writing your own sentences.

What is the definition of a possessive adjective with examples?

A possessive adjective is a word that shows ownership and is used to modify a noun. Examples of possessive adjectives in English are my, our, your, his, her, its, and their. For example:

  • She is reading her book.
  • We are going to their party tonight.

How do you use possessive adjectives in English?

In English, possessive adjectives are placed before the noun to show ownership. They agree with the subject, not the noun, and don’t change for singular or plural nouns. For example:

  • His cat is sleeping.
  • I like your sweater.

Remember to always place possessive adjectives before the noun they modify and ensure they correspond to the subject.

Last Updated on November 22, 2023

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