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Possessive Adjectives: Examples & Definition in English

How do you feel when someone takes something that’s yours without permission? If it’s a relative or close friend, you might not mind too much. But if a stranger walked up to your desk and took your pens and pencils, you probably wouldn’t feel too good about it. At that time, it’s important to try out your possessive adjective skills.

The first thing you might say to this person is, “Those are my pens and pencils. Please give them back!” But what would you be communicating to the person taking your things? Essentially, you are stating that you have ownership of the belongings which were taken from you and asking they be returned.

Let’s talk a bit about ownership. Words like my, your, and her are all examples of words that describe something’s relationship with something else (like your relationship to the pens and pencils). This category of words are possessive adjectives. You use this type of function word to describe someone’s relationship with a person, place, or thing. For example:

  • Is this your paper or mine?
  • Timothy enjoys my singing.
  • Her puppy is missing!

All bolded words explain someone’s relationship to or possession of a noun. But these aren’t the only words you can use in English that describe ownership. Let’s look at more function words and review some examples of each word in action.

What is a Possessive Adjective?

A possessive adjective modifies a noun. They tell others about your ownership of or relationship with something. You’re probably already familiar with all the words in this category. The possessive adjectives you should know are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose.

There’s also a chance that you know these words by other names. Some people call them possessives, weak pronouns, or determiner pronouns. No matter what you know this group of words as, if you understand that each word shows a relationship between something and something else, you’ll be fine.

Before you continue this lesson on words that explain ownership, why not learn something new? Here’s a quick lesson on MLA format and more styles of citing for your next writing assignment.

What is a possessive adjective? Here are some example sentences:

  • Did you know that my dad can do 1,000 push ups at a time? Crazy, huh!
  • Oh, I’m so sorry! I accidentally gave your order to a different customer.
  • His photos won a very prestigious photography competition.
  • I recommend that you see her collection of antique dolls and toys.
  • Its siblings are feral cats too.
  • Where did our tickets for the flight go? I thought you had them.
  • Whose glasses are these? The frame is snazzy.

What are Possessive Adjectives? What is the Connection With Subjective Pronouns?

When you think about pronouns, you normally picture words that replace nouns in a sentence. For instance, “that’s John’s drone” becomes “that’s his drone” when the pronoun his replaces the proper pronoun John.

However, not all pronouns act exactly alike. The subjective pronouns I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who are a bit out of the ordinary and become the subject of a sentence.

If you know about sentence structure, then you understand that the subject performs an action which impacts another noun. Here are some examples:

  • He (subject) kicks (verb) the soccer ball (noun).
  • They (subject) slid down (verb) the water slide (noun).
  • Who (subject) removed (verb) my flowers from the vase (noun)?

Now, the possessive adjective you use in a sentence depends on whom the subject of a sentence is. Here are some possessive adjective examples which show the connection with subjective pronouns.

First, you use the word my with the pronoun I.

  • I complete my homework every night at 7:00pm.

Second, the word you and your match when discussing possession.

  • Have you done your homework yet?

Third, the words he and his go together.

  • He doesn’t want to do his homework.

Fourth, is the adverb she and possession word her.

  • She always eats her food.

Fifth, you have it and its.

  • It doesn’t like its bird food today.

Sixth, use the word we when discussing our collective ownership.

  • We don’t need our textbooks today, right?

Seventh, the pronoun they connects with the possession word their.

  • It looks like they forgot their textbooks again!

Last, who and whose match with one another.

  • Who lost their phone? Do you know whose phone this is?

In addition to learning about subjective pronouns, it’s also important to learn possessive pronouns. This includes the words mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs, and whose. Some of these are incredibly like and often confused for a possessive adjective.

You can use either type of word to discuss ownership. However, pronouns never modify a noun. Instead, a pronoun replaces a noun, thereby telling the reader or listener about possession of something. Here are some examples of each. Try to figure out which kind of function word is in each example:

  • Whose toy is this? That’s my toy.
  • Whose car is this? It’s mine.
  • Is this your house? No, it’s his house.
  • Are these your shoes? No, they’re hers.
  • Can I borrow your charger? No, that’s not actually my charger.
  • Can I use your charger? Yes, but it’s not mine, it’s theirs.

If telling the two types of words is challenging, just look for the noun in a sentence with possession words. If there’s a pronoun replacing a noun, then you know you’re looking at a pronoun. If the noun is still there and it’s being modified by a possessive word, then you know you’re looking at a noun modifier.

Are There Other Types of Possessive Adjectives I Should Know?

There are two types of possession words that are popular in different languages, such as Spanish. These words are long form possessive adjectives and stressed possessive adjectives. Unfortunately, neither one exists in English. However, possessive pronouns are very similar. If you want to learn more about these types of words, here’s an information reference about the German language.

Now that you know all about each possessive adjective, why not check your paper for any grammar mistakes? The Citation Machine Plus grammar checker finds and flags errors in your writing. Citation Machine Plus also has tools that can create APA format citations for you. Check it out!