Possessive Adjectives: Definition, Usage with Useful Examples

Possessive Adjectives! Learn how to use a possessive adjective in English with examples and ESL infographic.

What Are Possessive Adjectives?

Possessive adjectives are words that modify the noun in order to demonstrate ownership. They are incredibly important and we use them in every conversation and paragraph without even realizing it.

Types of Possessive Adjectives

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are used to show ownership of something by referring to the person who owns it. They are:

  • My (singular)
  • Your (singular)
  • His (singular)
  • Her (singular)
  • Its (singular)
  • Our (plural)
  • Your (plural)
  • Their (plural)

Examples:

  • This is my car.
  • Your house is very beautiful.
  • His bike is in the garage.
  • Her dog is barking loudly.
  • Its color is red.
  • Our team won the game.
  • Your books are on the table.
  • Their house is on the corner.

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns are used to replace a noun and show ownership. They are:

  • Mine
  • Yours
  • His
  • Hers
  • Its
  • Ours
  • Yours
  • Theirs

Examples:

  • This book is mine.
  • Is this car yours?
  • The cat is hers.
  • Its tail is very fluffy.
  • The flowers are ours.
  • Are these pencils yours?
  • The house is theirs.

Possessive Determiners

Possessive determiners are used to indicate ownership before a noun. They are:

  • My (singular)
  • Your (singular)
  • His (singular)
  • Her (singular)
  • Its (singular)
  • Our (plural)
  • Your (plural)
  • Their (plural)

Examples:

  • My car is parked outside.
  • Your phone is ringing.
  • His jacket is on the chair.
  • Her book is on the table.
  • Its fur is soft.
  • Our house is on the hill.
  • Your bags are heavy.
  • Their children are playing in the park.

How to Use Possessive Adjectives

Examples of possessive adjectives are yourhis and her. Here’s a quick example with the possessive adjective highlighted in bold:

  • Can I borrow your pen?

In this example, the sentence gives ownership of the pen through the word “your”. That is the possessive adjective. As with common adjectives, the word can be swapped out for another possessive adjective and the statement would still make sense, but it would change the ownership of the pen.

  • Can I borrow her pen?
  • Can I borrow their pen?

This isn’t a rule of thumb however; some other examples of possessive adjective wouldn’t fit into that sentence as they indicate first person ownership.

  • You can borrow my pen.
  • You can borrow our pen.

Possessive adjectives are generally classed as types of pronouns. This is because they replace the name of the person or thing that has ownership.

  • Can I borrow Dave’s pen?
  • Can I borrow their pen?

The possessive adjective replaces Dave’s name in the sentence in favor of a more ambiguous format. This is beneficial as it means writers don’t have to constantly refer back to the character’s name but instead can substitute it to make the writing flow more smoothly.

It’s important not to get them confused with possessive pronouns. Possessive pronouns completely remove the noun from the sentence, instead of contributing to it as with the possessive adjective. For example:

  • Can I borrow your pen? Mine is broken.
  • My pen is broken. Can I borrow yours.

These examples demonstrate how a possessive pronoun would replace the noun (the pen) entirely. A possessive adjective must appear with a noun, usually before. Here are a few more examples of possessive adjectives being used in a sentence. The noun is underlined and the possessive adjective is in bold.

  • It was her money.
  • Whose line is it anyway?
  • I can’t believe she dropped her ice cream.

As you can see, the structure of the rest of the sentence doesn’t matter. A possessive adjective simply functions to provide ownership. A few more:

  • You can park your car in my garage.
  • Did you finish your homework?
  • The bike has lost its wheel.

Be careful when you use “its” as a possessive adjective that you don’t confuse it with “it’s” which is a contraction for “it is” and doesn’t indicate any ownership and causes the sentence to not make any grammatical sense. The same goes with mixing up “your” with “you’re”, “whose” with “who’s” and “their” with “they’re”. These are very common grammatical mistakes to make. Just remember that a possessive adjective won’t have an apostrophe.

In summary, possessive adjectives are short words that indicate ownership of a noun and the one you use is dependent on who has ownership of said noun. The entire list of possessive adjectives is as follows: my, your, her, his, their, our and its.

Common Mistakes and Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Confusing Possessive Pronouns with Possessive Adjectives: Possessive pronouns and possessive adjectives are often confused because they both show ownership. However, they are used differently in a sentence. Possessive adjectives come before a noun, while possessive pronouns stand alone as a replacement for the noun. For example, “This is my book” uses a possessive adjective, while “This book is mine” uses a possessive pronoun.
  • Overusing Possessive Adjectives: Overusing possessive adjectives can make your writing repetitive and clunky. Try to vary your sentence structure and use other descriptive words to avoid using possessive adjectives excessively.
  • Placing Possessive Adjectives in the Wrong Place: Possessive adjectives should be placed before the noun they are describing. Placing them in the wrong place can change the meaning of the sentence. For example, “The car my sister is driving” means something different than “My sister’s car is driving.”

Possessive Adjectives | Infographic

Possessive AdjectivesPin

Related Resources:
Order of Adjectives Possessive Adjectives
Coordinate Adjectives Compound Adjectives
Demonstrative Adjectives Predicate Adjective
Superlative Adjective Descriptive Adjectives
Interrogative Adjectives Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
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