Even if you don’t know what possessive pronouns are, you use them every day. They make speech and writing much easier! If you’re not sure whether you can spot one, check out our guide below.
What Are Possessive Pronouns?
The English language has a limited number of possessive pronouns – seven, to be exact! They are mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, and theirs.
As their name suggests, possessive pronouns indicate ownership. We use them in place of a noun phrase to show that someone or something owns an item or items. Therefore, possessive pronouns are independent – they can stand on their own without the help of nouns.
Possessive Pronouns in Action
Let’s look at a few examples of sentences that lack possessive pronouns:
My plants aren’t thriving like your plants.
James and Lily like my car better than they like their car.
Mary stopped by our house before going back to Mary’s house.
Do those sentences sound a little clunky and wordy? Let’s see how possessive pronouns can help. In each example, rather than having to state the nouns multiple times, you can use possessive pronouns:
My plants aren’t thriving like yours.
James and Lily like my car better than they like theirs.
Mary stopped by our house before going back to hers.
When Can We Use Possessive Pronouns?
The possessive pronoun replaces both the possessive noun or possessive adjective and the noun that is possessed. But a possessive pronoun works only if the sentence it’s in or the sentences in its context have already referred to the nouns being replaced. Consider this example:
Mine is dead. Hand over yours.
Unless surrounding sentences give us more context, the sentences above don’t provide enough information (and they sound a bit ominous!). We need to replace one of the possessive pronouns above with a possessive adjective and an actual noun:
My phone is dead. Hand over yours.
Hand over your phone. Mine is dead.
Possessive Pronouns vs Possessive Adjectives
You’ll notice that we just mentioned possessive adjectives; they go hand in hand with possessive pronouns. The seven possessive adjectives (or possessive determiners) are my, our, your, his, her, its, and their.
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You also may have noticed that we’ve already used some of these in our examples! While possessive pronouns stand on their own, you need to place possessive adjectives before a noun to modify it:
Let’s all go back to my apartment.
Jane showed us pictures of her cat.
Ernesto will never share his secret recipe.
When deciding whether to use a possessive pronoun or a possessive adjective, think about the context of the sentence. Has the noun that is being possessed already been mentioned? Then you can probably use a possessive pronoun. If not, you should introduce the noun using a possessive adjective.
Summary: Possessive Pronouns
We hope you now feel confident using possessive pronouns in your writing. Remember, they have to stand on their own, without a noun, so make sure you provide enough context before using one.
To make sure your writing is perfect, though, always have it proofread! Our experts will be happy to check it for grammar, spelling, word choice, punctuation, consistency, and more. Upload a 500-word sample today to try out our service for free.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the independent possessive pronouns?
The possessive pronouns in English are mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, and theirs.
Do possessive pronouns take plural and singular forms?
Possessive pronouns do not take both plural and singular forms. They each have one form. For example, mine is singular, and theirs is plural.