English Grammar Guide

Possessive Forms

In English, possession may be expressed in five different ways

Possessive Forms

In English, possession may be expressed in five different ways:

Possessive adjectives

Possessive adjectives agree with the person to whom they refer and act as an adjective, identifying the owner of a noun.

  • I --> my

  • you --> your

  • he, her, it --> his (masculine), her (feminine), its (impersonal)

  • we --> our

  • they --> their

Possessive adjectives must be used with a noun. So..

  • I have lost my keys.

  • They are coming in their car.

  • I met your grandparents.

  • This car has lost its power.

Note: In English the possessive adjective is used to refer to parts of the body:

  • She brushes her teeth twice a day.

  • He broke his arm playing soccer.

  • His stomach aches.

Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns, like the adjectives, agree with the person to whom they refer. Singular and plural share the same form:

  • I ............... mine

  • your ............... yours

  • he, she, it ............... his (masculine), hers(feminine), its (impersonal)

  • we ............... ours

  • they ............... theirs

A possessive pronoun replaces the noun it refers to and cannot be used with a noun.

  • I will use my books, and she can use hers.   ('hers' replaces 'her books')

  • If your pen isn't working, you can use mine.   ('mine' replaces 'my pen')

  • I like our house, but frankly, I am jealous of theirs!   ('theirs' replaces 'their house'

  • That's mine!

The verb 'to belong to'

The verb 'to belong to' indicates ownership or possession and must be followed by a name or pronoun.

  • That poodle belongs to Louise.

  • The world belongs to you.

The Saxon genitive

We can add the suffix 's to many nouns, noun phrases and some pronouns to illustrate possession. In some cases, if the noun ends with the letter 's' we just add an apostrophe to an existing letter 's'. This form is sometimes called the Saxon genitive.

  • I just read Paul's book.

  • The front door's lock is broken.

  • >Many of the world's countries are poor.

Note: Do not confuse the 's of possession with the contraction of the word 'is':

  • Fred's going to fetch it. (= Fred is going to fetch it.)

  • The train's late again. (= The train is late again.)

'Whose' for indicating possession

'Whose' is placed before a noun, and explains the noun is the property of the person previously mentioned:

  • The man whose dog bit me said he was sorry.  (The dog belongs to the man.)

  • Here is the woman whose daughter I intend to marry.  (The woman is the mother of the daughter.)