What Are Possessive Pronouns?

Possessive Pronouns

A possessive pronoun is a word that replaces a noun (or a noun phrase) in a sentence and shows ownership. The possessive pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, ours, and theirs.
  • Humans are the only animals that have children on purpose with the exception of guppies, who like to eat theirs. (Satirist P J O'Rourke)
  • (Here, theirs replaces the noun phrase guppies' children.)
  • A wife should no more take her husband's name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost. (Lucy Stone)
  • (Here, hers replaces the noun phrase wife's name.)
  • People who have given us their complete confidence believe that they have a right to ours. The inference is false, a gift confers no rights. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
  • (Here, ours replaces the noun phrase our complete confidence.)
  • I always check if the art across the street is better than mine. (Artist Andy Warhol)
  • (Here, mine replaces the noun phrase my art.)
Be aware that my, your, his, her, its, our, and their (called possessive adjectives in traditional grammar but possessive determiners in contemporary grammar) can also be classified as possessive pronouns because they too replace nouns and show ownership.
  • Is that the Queen's hat? No, it's her crown.
  • (Her replaces the Queen. That's why it's classified as a pronoun.)

Click on Two Possessive Pronouns

Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...

Changing Terminology

In traditional grammar, the term "personal pronoun" refers only to the standalone pronouns (e.g., mine, yours, ours) while the ones that modify nouns (e.g., my dog, your dog, our dog) are called possessive adjectives. In contemporary grammar, both types are classified as personal pronouns and are usually referred to as "possessives". To differentiate between the two types, the "mine" type are increasingly being called "absolute possessive pronouns". In contemporary grammar, the "my" type are called "possessive determiners" (as opposed to "possessive adjectives" in traditional grammar).

Possessive Pronouns (Absolute Possessive Pronouns and Possessive Determiners)

Here is a list of personal pronouns with their corresponding possessive pronouns (absolute) and possessive pronouns.
Personal PronounPossessive DeterminerPossessive Pronoun (Absolute)
This house bigger than my house
This house is bigger than mine
Is this your wallet?
Is this yours?
Use his car tomorrow morning.
Use his tomorrow morning.
I like her painting
I like hers.
itI can see its fin.[not used]
You can use our lawnmower.
You can use ours.
You can use their plan?

Did they show you theirs?

Why Should I Care about Possessive Pronouns?

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

By far the most common mistake related to possessive pronouns is including an apostrophe with yours, hers, ours, or theirs. There are no apostrophes in any possessive pronouns.
  • There are gods above gods. We have ours, and they have theirs. That's what's known as infinity. (French poet Jean Cocteau)

(Point 2) Don't confuse a possessive determiner with an identical-sounding contraction.

Grammar mistakes with possessive determiners are rare, but spelling mistakes with possessive determiners are common. Given how common these determiners are, misspelling them (particularly if you make a habit of it) will smash your credibility. There are four common spelling mistakes with possessive determiners, but fixing all four is easy because they're all made the same way – by confusing the possessive determiner with an identical-sounding contraction.

The contraction it's is not a possessive. It's is a contraction of 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.
To some extent, this mistake is understandable because apostrophes are used for possession (e.g., the dog's nose). But it's has nothing to do with possession. No, really, it doesn't.

The same is true for you're (a contraction of you are), they're (a contraction of they are) and who's (a contraction of who is or who has). Do not confuse these with your, their or there, or whose.
  • Even if you fall on you're face, you're still moving forward.
  • (The first you're is wrong. The second is correct.)
  • Forgive your enemies, but never forget there names.
  • Never go to a doctor who's office plants have died.
If you've used an apostrophe, test your apostrophe by expanding your word back into two words. If you can't, the apostrophe version is wrong.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited and printed to create exercise worksheets.

See Also

What are possessive adjectives? What are absolute possessive pronouns? What are adjectives? What are nouns? What are pronouns? Indefinite adjectives Interrogative adjectives Predicate adjectives Glossary of grammatical terms