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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 adjective ownership 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 known as 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 my paper?
  • 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 words you should be familiar with and will use often are

  • My
  • Your
  • His
  • Her
  • Its
  • Our
  • Their
  • Whose 

If you see these words, you should immediately think to yourself: what is a possessive adjective in a sentence and how is it used?

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 about 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. For now, let’s ask and answer the question: What is a possessive adjective?

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 represent the subject of a sentence. Subjective pronouns are connected to possessive pronouns.

  • 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.

 

Subjective Pronoun Possessive Adjective 
I My
You Your
He His
She Her
They Their
It Its
We Our

If you know about sentence structure, then you understand that the subject or subjects performs the action or actions in a sentence. Here are a few examples with nouns as the subjects. The subject is in bold:

 

  • The boy asked the girl to prom.
  • Two girls danced together the entire night.
  • Mrs. Johnson was the sponsor of the dance.

Once you figure out what the subject in the sentence is, you can then replace it with a subjective pronoun (in bold below).

  • He asked the girl to prom
  • They danced together the entire night.
  • She was the sponsor of the dance.

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?

What is a Possessive Adjective in relation to Possessive Pronouns?

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 possessive pronoun or  possessive adjective:

  • This is Sally’s house. This is her house. This house is hers.
  • Whose toy is this? That’s my toy.
  • Whose car is this? It’s mine.
  • Is this your house? No, it’s his.
  • Are these his 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.
  • Where is your jacket? Mine is over here. 
  • Does she have her debit card? Hers is in her purse.

Were you able to tell the difference in the use of a possessive adjective or a possessive pronoun? Notice how many of these examples use both possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns. When writing, your possessive adjective use will vary. Also notice how questions tend to use a possessive adjective and answers tend to use a possessive pronoun

Possessive In Adjective Form Possessive in Pronoun Form
Whose car is this? It’s mine.
Is this your house? No, it’s his.
Are these his shoes? No, they’re hers.

 

You can also interchange these possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns in the answers, and the sentence will still make sense. Here are two examples using sentences from above.

Possessive in Adjective Form Possessive in Pronoun Form
That’s my toy. That’s mine.
No, that’s actually my charger. No, that’s actually mine

 

Sometimes, you may use the object or person and the possessive pronoun in the same sentence to give clarity or provide new information.

 

  • This house is hers. 

Places emphasis on whose house.

  • This is hers.

Without the noun referenced in the sentence, this could be seen as vague if there are multiple objects around. This yard? This mailbox?

Usually, you will replace the noun with a possessive pronoun, and the reader or listener will understand what you are referring to based on the context. You may see some examples like those written above so keep in mind that the function above is still that of a possessive pronoun, even if the noun is included in the sentence. It still shows ownership and the sentence can still stand on its own without the noun. 

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 one of the possessive pronouns. If the noun is still there and it’s being modified, then you know you’re looking at one of the possessive adjectives, which function as noun modifiers

Possessive Pronoun Examples and Possessive Adjective Examples

 

Here are examples of both forms for your possessive adjective review. As you read through them, ask yourself: what are possessive adjectives and what are they modifying? What are possessive pronouns and what are they replacing? 

 

  • 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.
  • The clothes in the hamper are mine!
  • We can’t find the tools. Did you use ours?
  • I was looking for hers, not mine.
  • That house on the corner is his
  • I don’t need yours. I have theirs right here. You can put those pencils away.
  • That money is theirs, not hers! Give it back!
  • Although I hired a ghostwriter, the actual concept is mine.

What are Possessive Adjectives like in other languages? What are some Possessive Adjective Examples in other languages?

There are two types of possession words that are popular in different languages, such as Spanish. These words are long form possessive adjectives, also known as stressed possessive adjectives or long form possessive adjectives.

These forms also show ownership, but due to the nature of Spanish grammar, stressed possessive adjectives actually follow the noun it is modifying instead of coming before the noun like in short form. 

In English, these forms are also used, but they are called possessive pronouns, because they typically replace a noun in a sentence, like mine or theirs

In English, for example, “my house” would be written as “this house of mine” in Spanish, or “la mia” translated directly if using stressed possessive adjectives or long form possessive adjectives

In short form, like in English, you would still use my house, translated to “mi casa” in spanish. But for emphasis and to focus ownership on the object, the stressed or long form is an option in Spanish. If you want to learn more about how to use your possessive adjective forms, here’s an information reference about the Spanish 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!

 


Published March 5, 2019. Updated April 16, 2020.

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