Possessives: adjectives

Level: beginner

Subject Object Possessive adjective
I me my 
you you your
he him his
she her her
it it its
we us our
they them their

We use possessive adjectives:

  • to show something belongs to somebody:

That's our house.
My car is very old.

  • for relations and friends:

My mother is a doctor.
How old is your sister?

  • for parts of the body:

He's broken his arm.
She's washing her hair.
I need to clean my teeth.

Possessives: adjectives

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Be careful!

The possessive adjective its does not have an apostrophe ('):

That bird has broken its (NOT it's) wing.

(it's always means it is or it has.)

its or it's?

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Submitted by howtosay_ on Fri, 14/07/2023 - 22:52

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Hello, dear teachers and team!

Could you please help me (again) with the following:

Which one (if any) is correct:

1. They have their two own houses.

2. They have their own two houses.

3. They have two their own houses.

Thank you so much for your immense help and I'm very grateful for answering to this comment beforehand!!!

Submitted by Rodinei Gaspar on Fri, 09/06/2023 - 13:35

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In the sentence "6. This cake is really sweet. I think __got too much sugar in it." "It's" doesn't refer to "It is" but to "It has", right! So In my opinion it shouldn't be there as the aim is not "has got". Please tell us why is this there. Thanks from Brazil!
Rodinei and Paloma

Hello Rodinei and Paloma,

You are right in thinking that 'it's' is a contraction of 'it has' in that case.

That particular sentence was included to practise the last point made in the Be careful! box at the end of the explanation:

(it's always means it is or it has.)

This is quite a common error that we thought was worth including. I'm sorry if it was confusing, though.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by mohandes2k on Tue, 30/05/2023 - 14:34

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Please help to know “its” refers to which subject?

"The Agreement and these Conditions shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the law of the (a country name) without reference to its rules and principles on the conflict of law"
Thank you!

Hi mohandes2k,

It seems to refer to the Agreement mentioned earlier, but it could possibly refer to the law of the named country as well. It's not very clear.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Hi Jonathan, it is stated as “on the conflict of law” not “on the conflict of laws”. Does that help in specifying which subject is meant?

Hi mohandes2k,

That doesn't make a difference for me. Both of the possible references (the Agreement and the law) could reasonably be thought to include that information about rules and principles on the conflict of law or laws.

However, I do not know the context in which this sentence occurs, and I have no specialist legal knowledge. Perhaps people with more knowledge of this particular area will be able to interpret it better, but all I can say from reading this sentence in isolation is that the reference isn't clear for me.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Hien_NGUYEN on Fri, 07/04/2023 - 18:12

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Hi,
Can I have a question, please?

"factories and its laborers"
or
"factories and their laborers"
Which one is correct?

Thank you!

Hi Hien_NGUYEN,

It should be "their", since "factories" is plural. 

If it is about just one factory, it would be "a factory and its labourers".

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Gabi-OJ on Mon, 06/02/2023 - 13:07

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What is correct to say:

Boost your system performance
or
Boost your system's performance

why?

Hi Gabi-OJ,

Both are grammatically correct and sound natural. As for why, it's a question of what forms have become commonly used and accepted by the speakers of English, rather than a about what is correct according to grammatical rules. English grammar allows both of these constructions, and people use both of them. 

We are currently working on a new grammar page called "Possession and noun modifiers" about this very issue. It will explain some patterns in usage and give some practice exercises. Please check back soon to see it!

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thank you a lot!
I guessed exactly that :)
I will take a look at the topic.

I appreciate your time and support.

Gabi

Submitted by brianvariant on Wed, 22/06/2022 - 06:12

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Is there any difference in function or intention of the two sentences below:

I should learn about animal bodies.
I should learn about animals' bodies.

Hello brianvariant,

I think the sentences are interchangeable in terms of meaning; I can't think of a context in which there would be a difference in meaning or use. I would say that the first sentence is the more common option, but both are grammatically correct.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mike on Fri, 22/10/2021 - 06:27

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Hello, can somebody help me with this:

What would be correct: Women Forum or Women's Forum?

Thank you!

Submitted by Risa warysha on Tue, 31/08/2021 - 03:44

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Hello teachers, I read on e newspaper "...that both children parents and children were more prone to burnout." Would you please explain, why it read "children parents" instead of "children's parents". Are they actually the same? If different, what is the difference? Thank you, sir

Hello Risa warysha,

The sentence is incorrect. As you say, the correct form would be children's parents.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Wed, 17/03/2021 - 10:06

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Hi team, I want to learn one more thing. I realised something about the verb phrase 'shake hand' during reading a text and I was confused about one thing. For example in this sentence , 'I shaked hand when we met.' I think the sentence should be like 'I shaked his hand....' Could you please explain me which one is true? Thank you
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 18/03/2021 - 03:28

In reply to by Nevı

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Hi Nevı,

You're right, it should be I shaked his hand.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Teacher, I saw some sentences like: 'I shaked hands with him.' Is it the same like 'I shaked his hand' ?

Hi Nevı,

Yes, the meaning is similar, and in many situations both would be fine to use! But there's a slight difference:

  • If I say I shaked his hand, it seems like I started the action, or I was shaking more forcefully than him.
  • If I say I shaked hands with him, it seems like the handshake was more equal. I could also say We shook hands to show this 'equality' more strongly.

Also, I should also mention that nowadays, it's very common to use shook as the past simple of the verb shake (instead of shaked).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Tue, 02/03/2021 - 10:13

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Hi guys, I want to learn one more thing about 'whose'.I haven't seen using of non-defining relative pronoun 'whose' in sentence like that: "I talked Ellen, whose party it was, and then I.." It looks strange to me, 'it' is used after party and there is no word after"was"!? Could you explain why it was different? I always see 'whose' in sentences like 'She doesn't like him whose car is Ferrari"

Submitted by Jack on Wed, 16/12/2020 - 16:42

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Hello teacher. I have an example : The bird is standing on the branch, the big nest nearby is its. Is above sentence correct ? "Its" is possessive adjective or possessive pronoun or both of them ? Thanks !

Hi Jack,

It's a good question! Its is an adjective, but not a pronoun (see the full list on our Possessive pronouns page). So, in this sentence, I'd add a noun, for example:

  • The big nest nearby is its nest.
  • Its nest is the big one nearby.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jack on Mon, 14/12/2020 - 10:04

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Hello, in a sentence : The dog eat its bone. The possessive adjetive "its" include two meanings : The dog's bone and the bone people give. Is it correst, teacher ?

Hello Jack,

'its' just indicates some kind of relationship between the bone and the dog. In most cases, it's safe to assume that the bone belongs to the dog.

The form 'its' indicates a kind of possession. The form 'it's' is a short form of 'it is'. In the sentence you ask about, 'it's' wouldn't be correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Claudia on Wed, 12/08/2020 - 16:15

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Hi! In the first set of exercises, number 7, ¿shouldn't be "anymore" and not "any more"? Thanks
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 04:32

In reply to by Claudia

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Hi Claudia,

Good question. In British English, any more is written as two words, in both of its uses – as a quantifier/determiner, and as an adverb. American English often uses anymore (one word) for the adverb.

Have a look at this page for more examples: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/any-more-or-anymore

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Laura Vazquez on Fri, 12/06/2020 - 06:58

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Hello, many gracks to complement my information, I was a little confused regarding the use of the apostrophe in possessive pronouns, complement my doubts by watching a video, thank you. regards!

Submitted by tbeer on Sun, 30/12/2018 - 12:17

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I find the notion 'possessive adjective' to be quite a confusing misnomer. These truly do not operate like adjectives at all which is why they 'also' are called 'possessive determiner' which to some degree goes far better with the German term 'Possessivartikel'. For example, one aspect that sure doesn't have me classify these as 'adjectives' is the lack of any superlatives. I mean, please tell me there can never be a 'much yourer or yourest house'.

Hello tbeer,

My apologies if this has caused you any confusion. In fact, I agree with you and I expect that most people who concern themselves with such things for their own sake would as well.

Please note that this is a learner grammar, which means that is intended to help people gain a certain level of proficiency with using the language rather than describe it in a completely coherent way.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

In English, determiners classed as possessive adjectives are given this term because (like adjectives) they modify their head noun to show possession, together they form a noun phrase. This classification is not unique to English (in French, it's termed 'les adjectifs possessifs')
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Submitted by Jenny Woodfield on Sun, 28/10/2018 - 11:37

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Is the possessive s an adjective?

Hello Jenny,

Apostrophe + 's' in this case is a possessive determiner. It can show possession or other relationships. You can read more about it in the Wikipedia and on this page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sad on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 16:25

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So what you mean to say is, 'sports' here is an adjective and leisure activity is an adjective too! I am still confused why is there an 's' in sports? Why it was not written 'sport'? Why the writer had to separate it with 'and' then added the word 'leisure activity'?

Submitted by Sad on Sun, 18/02/2018 - 17:05

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Cycling is mainly a sports and leisure activity. Please explain why is there an 'S' in 'sports.' Is it as a plural or related to leisure and activity?

Hello Sad,

Speakers of American English tend to say 'sports' where speakers of British English would say 'sport', which I think might be way 'sports' is used in the sentence you refer to. Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team