Absolute Possessive Pronouns

by Craig Shrives

What Are Absolute Possessive Pronouns? (with Examples)

The term "absolute possessive pronoun" refers to the possessive pronouns "mine," "yours," "his," "hers," "ours," and "theirs." (A possessive pronoun is a word that replaces a noun (or a noun phrase) and shows ownership.)
absolute possessive pronouns
The term "absolute possessive pronoun" is used to differentiate these pronouns with the possessive determiners "my," "your," "his," "her," "its," "our," and "their" (called possessive adjectives in traditional grammar). The term is needed because possessive determiners can also be classified as possessive pronouns.

Rather confusingly, there are two versions of the "possessives" family tree:

Version 1

Possessive Pronouns
Possessive Determiners
mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs.my, your, his, her, its, our, their

Version 2

Possessive Pronouns
Absolute Possessive Pronouns
Possessive Determiners
mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs.my, your, his, her, its, our, their

Also of note, the term "possessive determiner" (which came to prominence in the 1960s) is used interchangeably with "possessive adjective" (the term most commonly used by those teaching foreign languages). Of interest, "possessive adjective" is more than twice as popular as "possessive determiner." [evidence]

Here at Grammar Monster, we go with "Version 1."

(If you disagree with this summary of the terminology, please tell us using this form.) Read more about possessive pronouns and possessive determiners.

Examples of Absolute Possessive Pronouns

Here are some examples of absolute possessive pronouns:
  • Theirs are in the garage.
  • They say female canaries can't sing. Well, hers can.
  • We cherish our friends not for their ability to amuse us, but for ours to amuse them. (Author Evelyn Waugh)
Here is the main point related to absolute possessive pronouns.

Don't put an apostrophe in "yours," "hers," "ours," or "theirs."

By far the most common mistake related to absolute possessive pronouns is including an apostrophe with "yours," "hers," "ours," or "theirs." There are no apostrophes in any possessive pronouns.
  • These are her's. wrong cross
  • Your's are bigger than our's. wrong cross
  • Yours are bigger than ours. correct tick
  • Lots of people who complained about us receiving the MBE received theirs for heroism in the war - for killing people. We received ours for entertaining other people. I'd say we deserve ours more. correct tick (Singer John Lennon)

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