Possessive Pronouns

Say you have a favorite game. You can describe this in several ways, such as, “My favorite game is Wizardry 8” or “Wizardry 8 is a favorite game of mine.” You can also turn that question on someone else with, “What is your favorite game?” All of these instances contain possessive pronouns (highlighted pink), a hallmark of English grammar. Although there aren’t many possessive pronouns, the topic is more elusive than you think.

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    Possessive Pronouns English Grammar

    In English language grammar, a pronoun fulfills a distinct role that isn’t always possessive.

    A pronoun fills in for another noun.

    By nature, a pronoun is more generic than a noun. Here is a chart of nouns and how you might refer to them as pronouns.

    NounAs a pronoun...


    It is over there.


    That football is hers.


    They make me warm.

    Dusty the cat

    He is my buddy.

    In each highlighted instance, you only know what the pronoun refers to because you have the far-left column to clarify it. Without that column, you would have no idea what “it,” “hers,” “they,” or “he” refers to.

    Only one of these examples uses a possessive pronoun, however. That possessive pronoun is “hers.”

    A possessive pronoun indicates that someone or something has or owns something else.

    This doesn’t necessitate two physical things. It can also include properties. Here are two examples.



    Using the noun

    Using the pronoun


    Rock (a thing)

    Sally’s rock

    Her rock

    Dusty the cat

    Friendly behavior (a property)

    Dusty the cat’s friendly behavior

    His friendly behavior

    In terms of English grammar, possessive pronouns are a case of pronoun. Specifically, they are of the genitive case.

    The case of a word changes based on its role in the sentence (e.g., whether it acts, is acted upon, or possesses something).

    The genitive case shows possession.

    English does not have many cases. However, most instances of case in English deal with the genitive case in nouns and pronouns. Here is how a singular noun vs. a singular pronoun is made genitive.

    NounGenitive form





    A noun adds a -’s for singular genitive nouns, while a pronoun morphs. This is similar for plural nouns and pronouns.

    NounGenitive form

    The leaders

    The leaders’



    At this point, it would be useful to have the full chart of possessive pronouns and some further context about the morphology.

    Morphology is the study of words within a language and how they change based on context.

    Possessive pronouns. An abstract image of thinking. StudySmarter.Fig. 1 - Match genitive forms accurately to their noun or pronoun.

    Possessive Pronouns Chart

    You can chart possessive pronouns based on five aspects put along two axes: person and number.

    Singular Independent

    Singular Dependent

    Plural Independent

    Plural Dependent












    His, Hers, Its, Theirs

    His, Her, Its, Their



    These constitute all of the possessive pronouns in the English language. Suffice it to say, there aren’t that many. However, you might be wondering what the difference between “independent” and “dependent” pronouns is.

    The independent genitive pronoun can stand alone. “That is mine.”

    The dependent genitive pronoun requires an object. “That is my handbag.”

    Since there aren’t that many possessive pronouns, it shouldn’t take long to provide examples for each.

    Possessive Pronouns Examples

    Here is a list of all possessive pronouns with example sentences.

    First-person possessive pronouns:

    That is mine. (singular independent genitive)

    That is my cat. (singular dependent genitive)

    Dusty the cat is ours. (plural independent genitive)

    That’s our choice. (plural dependent genitive)

    Second-person possessive pronouns:

    I’m yours. (singular independent genitive)

    That dog is your responsibility. (singular dependent genitive)

    All right, the puppies are yours now. (plural independent genitive)

    Your puppies are mighty friendly. (plural dependent genitive)

    Third-person possessive pronouns:

    It’s his. / It’s hers. / That is its. / It’s theirs. (singular independent genitive)

    His arm hurts. / Her leg hurts / Its head hurts / Their hand hurts. (singular dependent genitive)

    The basketball is theirs. (plural independent genitive)

    It’s their baseball. (plural dependent genitive)

    Possessive pronouns. A baseball. StudySmarter.Fig 2. - "Person" refers to perspective in English grammar. "I" play baseball (first-person). "You" play baseball (second-person). "I" and "you" are unique perspectives.

    Possessive Pronouns Used In Sentences

    Because English is an analytic language, possessive pronouns must be used in particular places in sentences.

    An analytic language uses word order, auxiliary verbs, and prepositions to indicate what is happening in a sentence.

    A dependent possessive pronoun will always appear before what it possesses.

    That is my watch.

    If a possessive pronoun is independent (e.g., mine), it will appear as the object in a sentence.

    The object of a sentence receives the verb from the subject.

    In the case of independent possessive pronouns, that would look like:

    The computer (subject) is (verb) mine (object).

    While a dependent possessive pronoun can assist a subject or object in a sentence (e.g., “My friend is happy” or “John is my friend”), an independent possessive pronoun will always appear as the object of a sentence.

    Unclear Pronouns: When using pronouns in writing, always beware of unclear pronouns. A pronoun is unclear if a reader doesn’t know what it refers to. For instance, “it is over there” might be unclear, whereas “the remote control is over there” is much clearer.

    That said, pronouns have their uses, possessive or otherwise. You include pronouns to shorten ideas. For example, if one sentence reads, “Burry is a magical goblin,” then you probably wouldn’t follow it up with:

    • Burry’s favorite food is hoppop pie.

    Instead, you would write:

    • His favorite food is hoppop pie.

    This is because the subject “Burry” is perfectly clear, thanks to the prior sentence. This is a basic example, but even as sentences grow more complex, you still end up using more pronouns than not. As a rule of thumb, use a pronoun when:

    • It agrees with the last noun subject, OR
    • There is no immediate chance for confusion (for example, you can go back and forth between “he” and “she” if there are just two people talking and one is a “he” and the other is a “she.”

    Possessive Pronouns as Adjectives

    There are multiple ways to codify English pronouns. Pertinent to the discussion here, there is another way to look at the dependent genitive pronouns (my, your, his, her, its, their).

    In this alternate way of categorization, you can describe these determiners as possessive adjectives because they modify a noun.

    “Her cup.”

    In this construction, “her” functions in some sense like an adjective. After all, an adjective gives some kind of information about a noun, and “her” does that. It also abides by many of the grammatical and syntactical rules of an adjective.

    However, a determiner like “her” does not always abide by the grammatical and syntactical rules of an adjective. For instance, in a list of adjectives describing a noun, you would construct the sentence in this way:

    The tall, red, wooden cup is my favorite.

    You could not, however, insert “her” into this list.

    The tall, her, wooden cup is my favorite.

    So while there is merit in describing determiners as adjectives or “my” as a “possessive adjective,” beware of taking this simplistic definition and running with it. Pronouns exist in an ambiguous and oft-discussed space of English grammar, so take the time to understand any codification of their bits and bobs.

    Possessive Pronouns - Key Takeaways

    • A possessive pronoun indicates that someone or something has or owns something else.
    • In terms of English grammar, possessive pronouns are one case of pronouns. Specifically, they are of the genitive case.
    • The genitive case shows possession.
    • There are two kinds of genitives for pronouns: independent (that is mine) and dependent (that is my plate).
    • Alternatively, you can classify some possessive pronouns (my, your, his, her, its, their) as possessive adjectives, although beware treating "possessive adjectives" as ordinary adjectives.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Possessive Pronouns

    What are possessive pronouns?

    A possessive pronoun indicates that someone or something has or owns something else.

    How are possessive pronouns different from possessive adjectives?

    You can divide possessive pronouns in different ways. One way is to divide them into their genitive forms, the independent genitive pronoun (e.g., That is mine) and the dependent genitive pronoun (e.g., That is my cup). The dependent genitive requires an object. You can also call the dependent genitive pronouns "possessive adjectives" because they function similarly to adjectives, as they modify a noun. In this second way of viewing English pronouns, you would call mine a possessive pronoun and my a possessive adjective.

    What are possessive pronouns with example sentences?

    A possessive pronoun indicates that someone or something has or owns something else. Some example sentences would be, "That's mine" and "I'm yours."

    What's the difference between a possessive pronoun and a pronoun?

    A pronoun fills in for another noun. It doesn't necessarily show possession (e.g., "It is here"). A possessive pronoun indicates that someone or something has or owns something else (e.g., "The cat is mine").

    How many possessive pronouns are there?

    There are not many possessive pronouns, although the precise number depends on how you count them. However, you can quickly memorize them and chart the possibilities.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    "That is our school."What is "our" an example of?

    Where does a dependent possessive pronoun appear?

    Where does an independent pronoun appear?


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