What Are Possessive Adjectives? (with Examples)
Possessive AdjectivesThe possessive adjectives are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose. A possessive adjective sits before a noun (or a pronoun) to show who or what owns it.
Read more about determiners.
Easy Examples of Possessive AdjectivesIn the examples below, the possessive adjectives are shaded.
- She likes your hat. (The possessive adjective "your" sits before the noun "hat" to tell us who owns it.)
- I think her dog has eaten my gerbil. (The possessive adjectives "her" and "my" are sitting before (or modifying as it's called) the nouns "dog" and "gerbil" to tell us who owns them.)
Real-Life Examples of Possessive AdjectivesIn the examples below, the possessive adjectives are shaded and the nouns being modified are bold. The table also shows how each possessive adjective corresponds to a personal pronoun.
|Personal Pronoun||Possessive Adjective||Example|
|I||my||I do not choose that my grave should be dug while I am still alive. (Queen Elizabeth I)|
|you||your||If you want peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. (South African cleric Desmond Tutu)|
|he||his||If a man could have half of his wishes, he would double his troubles. (Founding Father Benjamin Franklin)|
|she||her||She got her looks from her father. He's a plastic surgeon. (Comedian Groucho Marx)|
|it||its||Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow. It only saps today of its joy. (Author Leo Buscaglia)|
|we||our||How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. (Author Annie Dillard)|
|they||their||Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth. (Martial artist Chuck Norris)|
|who||whose||The key is to keep company only with people whose presence calls forth your best. (Greek philosopher Epictetus)|
More about Possessive AdjectivesPossessive adjectives are classified as a type of pronoun. Look at this example:
- Is that the Queen's hat?
No, it's her crown.
(In this example, the possessive adjective "her" replaces the noun "the Queen.")
You may find it helpful to group possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns (e.g., mine, yours, hers) under the term possessive form. This helps to differentiate between possessive adjectives (e.g., my, your), which some classify as pronouns, and possessive pronouns (e.g., mine, yours).
Here is a list of personal pronouns with their corresponding possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns, i.e., their possessive forms.
|Personal Pronoun||Possessive Form|
|Possessive Adjective||Possessive Pronoun|
A Video SummaryHere is a video summarizing this lesson on possessive adjectives.
Why Should I Care about Possessive Adjectives?Grammar mistakes with possessive adjectives are rare. However, spelling mistakes with possessive adjectives are common. Given how common the possessive adjectives are, misspelling them (particularly if you make a habit of it) will smash your credibility.
There are four common spelling mistakes with possessive adjectives. (Don't worry. Fixing all four is easy because they're all made the same way – by confusing the possessive adjective with an identical-sounding contraction.)
(Common Mistake 1) Don't write "it's" when you mean "its" (or vice versa)The contraction "it's" has nothing to do with possession, i.e., it is not a possessive adjective. "It's" is short for "it is" or "it has." This is a 100% rule. If you can't expand your "it's" to "it is" or "it has," then it's wrong.
- A country can be judged by the quality of it's proverbs.
Read more about its and it's.
(Common Mistake 2) Don't write "you're" when you mean "your" (or vice versa)."You're" is short for "you are." This is a 100% rule. If you can't expand your "you're" to "you are," then it's wrong.
- Even if you fall on you're face, you're still moving forward. (The first "you're" is wrong. The second is correct.)
(Common Mistake 3) Don't confuse "there," "they're", and "their.""They're" is short for "they are." This is a 100% rule. If you can't expand your "they're" to "they are," then it's wrong. "There (just like the word "here") is a place. It's also used in expressions like "There are dragons" or "There's an issue."
- Forgive your enemies, but never forget there names.
(Common Mistake 4) Don't write "who's" when you mean "whose" (or vice versa)."Who's" is short for "who is" or "who has." This is a 100% rule. If you can't expand your "who's to "who is" or "who has," then it's wrong.
- Never go to a doctor who's office plants have died.
(A More Technical Issue) Don't use "his/her."There's an issue with possessive adjectives in English. We don't have a singular non-gender-specific one that can be used with people. We have "its," but you can't use "its" with people.
- Each owner is responsible for its dog. ("Its" can't be used with people.)
- Each owner is responsible for their dog. (Using "their" to replace a singular noun (here, "owner") is acceptable. This is the best option.)
- Each owner is responsible for his/her dog. (This is acceptable to some, but it's clumsy.)
- Each owner is responsible for his dog. (This is acceptable if all owners are male. If they're not, avoid this option, even with a caveat explaining that "his" means "his/her.")