Possessive adjectives in English explained

by Laura Jones
December 11, 2020
woman researching Possessive adjectives in English

What are possessive adjectives and how do we use them? Possessive adjectives – also called possessive determiners – are used to show possession. For every subject pronoun there is a possessive adjective and they show to whom or what something belongs. Have a look at the table below to see what the possessive adjectives are.

Subject pronounPossessive adjective
Imy
youyour
hehis
sheher
itits
weour
theytheir

They are used before the nouns that they are referring to; these can be singular or plural nouns. The possessive adjective agrees with the person who owns it. Let’s look at some examples for each. 

Examples of possessive adjectives

One way we use possessive adjectives is to show some kind of ownership of objects. 

My

My is the first person singular possessive adjective. It is used for men and women. 

This is my dog. These are my dogs. 

Notice that my does not change its form when we use it with the plural noun. This is the same as with all other adjectives in English, i.e. we don’t say two reds dogs, we say two red dogs

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Your

Your is the second person possessive adjective. Just like the subject pronoun you, your is used in the singular and the plural, for men and women. 

Is that your friend? Are those your friends?

His

His is only used for males and it is the third person singular possessive adjective. 

That is his cookie. Those are his cookies. 

Her 

Her is the female counterpart to his; it is used for third person singular females. 

Her daughter is beautiful. Her daughters are beautiful.

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Its

This is used in the third person singular for animals and objects. 

This is the house and that is its garden. This is the house and those are its gardens. 

Our

Our is used to talk about multiple people who own one thing or several things. It is the first person plural possessive adjective. 

That is our cat. Those are our cats. 

Their

Their is used for third person plural ownership. This means that more than one person owns something. 

Is this their book? Are those their books?

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Possessive adjectives with people

We often use possessive adjectives with people to talk about our relationship to them. We use them in the same way as in the examples above. 

Singular Plural 
My mum is so nice. My friends are so nice.
Your dad is really funny.Your parents are really funny.
His friend isn’t home.His friends aren’t home.
Her grandmother is very old.Her grandparents are very old. 
Its owner is loving.*Its owners are loving.*
Our cousin lives in New York.Our cousins live in New York.
Their sister works in a shop.Their sisters work in a shop.

*Usually used when the subject is an animal, but not about a well-loved pet that you can call he/him or she/her.

Possessive adjectives with parts of the body

We also use possessive adjectives when we want to talk about our body parts or someone else’s. 

My arm hurts.

Her legs are broken.

Their eyes are the same colour.

Watch out! 

Here are some possessive adjectives that people often get confused about. Try to remember these small but important differences. 

Your vs you’re

The possessive adjective is your. You’re is a contraction of you are. These words are pronounced the same way in English. 

This is your lunch. I can see you’re hungry. 

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Its vs it’s

Its is the possessive adjective and it’s is a contraction of it is. This is the word that confuses people the most and even native speakers use the apostrophe when they shouldn’t. 

Where are its owners? I think it’s lost. 

Their vs they’re vs there

Three confusing words that are all pronounced the same in English! Their is the possessive adjective; they’re is a contraction of they are; and there is an adverb to talk about place. 

Their dog is really funny. They’re always laughing at him. Look – he’s over there! 

My advice is to learn the possessive adjectives because they’re the kind of words that you will use very often in English. This way your English will be better and your English friends will be impressed. 

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