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08/31/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 08/31/2023 12:17

How to use possessive adjectives in English

English learners will encounter a lot of possessive adjectives: These words are used to show ownership or possession. There are some important differences between possessive adjectives and similar words, like possessive pronouns. Here's how possessive adjectives work in English!

In this post:

What are possessive adjectives in English?

How to use possessive adjectives

Possessive pronouns vs. possessive adjectives

Examples of possessive adjectives in English

What are possessive adjectives in English?

Possessive adjectives are used with nouns to show who owns or possesses the noun. Unlike possessive pronouns, possessive adjectives don't replace the noun-instead, the adjective appears before the noun. In English, possessive adjectives change depending on the grammatical person and gender of who possesses or owns the noun.

Here's the full list of possessive adjectives in English:

Person Subject pronoun Possessive adjectives
1st singular I my
2nd singular you your
3rd singular he
she
it
his
her
its
1st plural we our
2nd plural you
(you all, y'all, ye, yinz, you guys)
your
(you all's, y'all's, yinz's, you guys's)
3rd plural they their

How to use possessive adjectives

In English, the details of the noun that is possessed don't matter for choosing which possessive adjective to use. For example, if something belongs to Angela, then you use the possessive adjective her-whether you're talking about one book or a million, whether she has a car or a cat or a house, etc-you'll always use her.

In English, possessive adjectives match the person who possesses the object, not the thing being possessed.

English possessive adjectives go before the noun they describe, and if there are any other adjectives in the phrase, they go before them as well:

  • my book
  • my new book
  • my new green book
  • my enormous new green book with all the plants on the cover

Possessive adjectives are used instead of the article the, so you can use either a possessive adjective or the, but not both. That's unlike how we use them in Portuguese-but in English you can't say the my book, only my book is correct.

Possessive pronouns vs. possessive adjectives

There are important differences between possessive pronouns and possessive adjectives-which can be difficult to remember, since the forms of these words look so similar!

Possessive pronouns replace the noun that is possessed, while possessive adjectives come before the noun:

  • Possessive pronoun: This heavy package is [Fiona's package]. It is hers.
  • Possessive adjective: This heave package is [Fiona's] package. It is her package.
Subject pronoun Possessive pronoun Possessive adjective
I mine my
you yours your
he his his
she hers her
it its its
we ours our
you
(you all, y'all, ye, yinz, you guys)
yours
(you all's, y'all's, yinz's, you guys's)
your
(you all's, y'all's, yinz's, you guys's)
they theirs their

Possessive adjectives are your time to shine!

Possessive adjectives are important for English learners to recognize and use. There are just a couple of important rules to remember: Possessive adjectives match the person who possesses the noun, and they go before the noun, in place of the.

Examples of possessive adjectives in English

Subject pronoun Possessive adjective Example
I my I always pack my red shirt.
you your Where is your suitcase?
he his The agent needs his passport.
she her Her seat is next to the window.
it its Its wings are enormous!
we our We checked our luggage.
you all your Did you all bring your favorite snacks?
they their Their taxi will be waiting outside.