Possessives: pronouns

Level: beginner

Subject Object Possessive adjective Possessive pronoun
I me  my mine
you you your yours
he him  his his
she her  her hers
it it its -
we us  our ours
they them  their theirs

 

Be careful!

Possessive pronouns do not have an apostrophe:

Is that car yours/hers/ours/theirs?
(NOT Is that car your's/her's/our's/their's?)

We can use a possessive pronoun instead of a full noun phrase to avoid repeating words:

Is that John's car?
     No, it's mine.
 (NOT No, it's [my car].)

Whose coat is this?
     Is it yours? (NOT Is it [your coat]?)

Her coat is grey.
     Mine is brown. (NOT [My coat] is brown.)

 

Possessives: pronouns 1

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Level: intermediate

We can use possessive pronouns and nouns after of. We can say:

Susan is one of my friends. > Susan is a friend of mine.
(NOT Susan is a friend of me.)

I am one of Susan's friends. > I am a friend of Susan's.
(NOT I am a friend of Susan.)

Possessives: pronouns 2

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Submitted by Maahir on Mon, 16/08/2021 - 10:06

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Hi there, Please help me identify which sentence is correct and why. Q1 a- I spent my weekend with Mr. Smith's family b- I spent my weekend with Mr. Smiths' family Q2. a- This is my neighbor's car b- This is my neighbors' car I was also wondering if it sounds good to say "This is book is my brother's" Thanks for your great help.

Hi Maahir,

Good question! Here is the explanation.

Put the apostrophe after 's' if the noun already ends in 's'. This includes most plural nouns, and some singular nouns too. For example:

  • my sisters' books (= the books that belong to my sisters, i.e. more than one sister)
  • James' books (= the books that belong to James)
  • the bus' wheels (= the wheels of the bus)

Otherwise, put the apostrophe before 's'. For example:

  • my sister's books (= the books that belong to my sister, i.e. only one sister)
  • Tim's books (= the books that belong to Tim)
  • the car's wheels (= the wheels of the car)

 

So, for your Q1, the important question is: what is the man's name? If it is 'Mr Smith', option a is correct. If it is 'Mr Smiths', option b is correct. 'Smith' is a very common surname. 'Smiths' is less common, but it does exist.

For Q2, both options again are grammatically correct, but the question is: how many neighbours own this car? The answers mean the car belongs to (a) one neighbour, or (b) more than one neighbour.

Yes, you can say This book is my brother's :)

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Tue, 17/08/2021 - 08:59

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Dear Jonathan R, Thanks for your very clear explanations. The questions were in the exercise. I clearly understood the use of the apostrophe for neighbor/neighbors. on other hand, since "Mr. Smiths" seems strange to me, I chose "Mr. Smith's Family" as the correct answer, but the system tells that it is not the correct answer.

Hi Maahir,

OK, I understand. I can't find those questions on this page. Can you let me know the page where you saw those questions, so that I can check them?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Tue, 17/08/2021 - 13:55

In reply to by Jonathan R

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You can find them in the 1st exercise of Possessives: nouns

Hi Maahir,

OK, thanks, I've found them :)

You can add an ‘s’ to a surname, to mean ‘all the people in that family’. For example:

  • The Simpsons = The Simpson family
  • The Smiths = The Smith family

In that question, it says The party was organised by the Smith family. “The Smith family” = “The Smiths”, and to make it possessive, we add an apostrophe after ‘s’ (not before it, because it already ends in ‘s’). So, we can say:

  • It was the Smiths’ party.

(It’s not correct to say “It was the Smith’s party” because the party was by the whole family, not just one person, and also the definite article isn’t used with surnames in the singular).

Another option is to use the word ‘family’, and say It was the Smith family’s party. The meaning is the same. (Notice it’s not correct to say “the Smiths family” – with “family”, the surname should be in the singular).

So, in sentence Q2 in your first message, you can say “I spent my weekend with Mr. Smith's family” or “I spent my weekend with the Smiths”.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

Submitted by Fanny.C on Tue, 02/02/2021 - 06:04

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The mirror belongs to my sister. The mirror belongs to my sister's Are they both correct? or not? I feel like just the first one

Hello Fanny.C,

Yes, only the first one is correct. There is no need for a possessive form when we use 'belongs to'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rajrani17 on Sun, 17/01/2021 - 08:07

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'Each member went to eat her favourite leaves and twigs'. Is it correct

Submitted by CHÉKYTAN on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 05:18

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Which one is correct and why? - "Government are the servant of mankind." or "Government are the servant of mankind's"

Hello CHEKYTAN,

Neither is correct. In this context, government as a general concept would be singular (Government is...). As far as the rest goes, the first is the correct option. Although the 's form is in some contexts, especially with names, it is actually grammatically illogical and it is not used in a context such as this.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, "Government is very unpredictable. They are always changing their minds." Is this sentence correct?

Hello again CHÉKYTAN,

In this example the context is different. Here, you are presumably talking about a particular government rather than about the concept of government in general. Thus, here we would use 'the;:

The government is...

The rest of the sentence is fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Grammarfan07 on Wed, 25/11/2020 - 09:25

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Hello. I have a question. Please, help me understand this. I am confused. Which one is correct? a) A crocodile is a predator that lives in tropic rivers, and its bite can kill many animals. b) A crocodile is a predator that lives in tropic rivers, and whose bite can kill many animals. This kind of variants was in an English test. I chose the answer "a", because "its" is a possessive adjective for animals and things. But the examiner insisted on the answer "b". I thought "whose" used only for people to express things that belong to them.

Hello Grammarfan07,

Both options are grammatically possible, though I would say the second sentence does not need the word 'and'. Also, the correct adjective here would be 'tropical' rather than 'tropic'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much Peter. Now I understand that both options are grammatically correct or possible as you say. Unfortunately, there are English teachers from Nigeria in Kyrgyzstan. They cheat on with tests answers as they think native citizens are not able to notice it.

Submitted by Phan Hang on Mon, 12/10/2020 - 06:34

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Hi, can I use an possessive adjective followed by an apostrophe. For example: Her friends’ coats or her friends coats?

Hello Phan Hang,

Yes, you can certainly use an apostrophe like that.

Her friends' coats is perfectly fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by re_nez on Sun, 31/05/2020 - 10:31

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Why isn’t there a possessive pronoun “its” ?

Hello again re_nez

It's not included in the table on this page because it's something native speakers don't use. To be honest, I don't know exactly why this is, but I expect that it has to do with the way the language evolved over the past 1500 years. 

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Antosole7 on Wed, 27/05/2020 - 01:55

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Hello. My question is: what’s the rule for possessive pronouns when you want to use nouns or names. Do you place an apostrophe at the end of a name or not? For example: is it: that house was hers and Johns? or: that house was hers and John’s? Thank you very much.

Submitted by Andrea Klocová on Wed, 22/01/2020 - 20:55

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Hello .... I have a problem to understand how and when to use possesive nouns and adjectives.....for example... Your house is big but mine/my is small??? Their car is expensive but ours/our is cheap??

Hello Andrea Klocová

An adjective goes with a noun or pronoun and a pronoun takes the place of a noun. In the phrases 'your house' and 'their car', 'your' and 'their' go with the nouns 'house' and 'car' and identify them.

'mine' doesn't go with a noun -- instead it takes the place of the idea 'my house'. In the same way, 'ours' doesn't go with a noun and takes the place of the idea 'our car'. Since they take the place of a noun, these are pronouns and so we use the pronoun forms.

Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello Andrea, you could say: " Your house is bigger than mine." Is this car cheaper than ours?
Hello Andrea, you could say: "Your house is big but mine is small". In this case, "mine" means "my house". The same goes for "Their car is expensive but ours (=our car) is cheap". Hope that helped.

Submitted by Duale on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 09:30

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Plz I want more advice about, possive pronoun .like how to use in this

Hello Duale,

Our infomation on this topic is on the page and in the exercises above, but if you have a specific question about one of the examples, for instance, then we'll be happy to try to help.

It can be useful to look at related topics. On the right of the page you'll see links to other pages dealing with possessive forms. Wotking through those will be helpful, I think.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I have a couple of questions. First, the difference between possessives as Adjectives and as Pronouns is clear. What I still have lingering is:, how are they used determiners? And lastly, can a word be used as a determiner,a possessive adjective and a possessive pronoun?

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 06/05/2020 - 07:38

In reply to by Alveiro7

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Hello Alveiro7,

I think this question is rather too abstract for us to deal with in the comments sections. It would require a lot of definitions and explanation.

Perhaps you have a particular example you are uncertain about. We'll be happy to comment on it if so.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohsen.k77 on Tue, 22/10/2019 - 13:23

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Hi Dear Teachers, are "individually" and " one by one" the same when a teacher wants to ask the students to do a task without help? Best regards

Hello Mohsen.k77,

There is a difference between individually and one by one.

When you do something individually, you do it by yourself rather than working in a group.

When people do something one by one, each person waits until the previous person has finished before they start. You could imagine the students standing in a line, waiting for their turn.

One by one can also refer to a set of tasks. For example, if students have a reading text and several tasks to do with it, a teacher might instruct them to do the tasks one by one, which means doing them in sequence. In other words, the studetnts should not start the second task until they have finished the first, and not start the third until they have finished the second.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Backlight on Mon, 14/10/2019 - 05:01

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I want to ask if using possessive pronoun with noun after of can sentences like this? For example : (How do you know Karolina? Are you a "classmates" of hers?) It is correct or need to be singular form for classmate?

Hello Backlight

The plural form is not correct here because you've used the indefinite article 'a', which is only used with singular nouns. But in general the 'of hers' form can be used with both singular and plural nouns. For example, if you were speaking to several people, you could say 'Are you classmates of hers?' to them and that would be correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Possessive pronouns substitute previously mentioned nouns (Karolina in your example) to avoid needless repetition. Correct syntax to use: 'Are you (both) classmates?' (pl.) - you and Karolina 'Are you her classmate?' (sing.) - possessive adjective + noun 'Are you a classmate of hers?' - prossessive pronoun

Submitted by doradosz on Sun, 21/04/2019 - 12:55

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Hi there, I feel a bit of uncertain about the use of possessive pronoun of its when I am trying to copy this lesson's samples with "its". Let's say, Ryan (It's me) and Vivian are both the owner of a little puppy named Tom, if it's all right to say: 1. Ryan is one of its owners (its–possessive adjective) 2. Ryan is an owner of its. (its–possessive pronoun?) 3. I am (She is/ Ryan is/ Vivian is) one of Tom's owners. (Tom's–possessive adjective) 4. I am (She is/ Ryan is/ Vivian is) an owner of Tom's (Tom's–possessive pronoun) Are these expressions right? Especially for the 2nd one, I don't know how but it seems weird to me, how about you guys? Please help me out, thanks.
Hello doradosz First of all, as a native English speaker you would be much more likely to use the appropriate gendered pronoun or adjective rather than the neutral one. All of the sentences are grammatically correct, but the only one that does not sound odd to me is 3. Hope this helps! All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohsen.k77 on Mon, 18/02/2019 - 12:52

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Hello Dear teachers, you have mentioned in possessive pronouns that we must say " a friend of susan" because after "of" we must use a possessive pronoun, is it correct about the following sentence too: "i'm a fan of Susan" or " a fan of her" ? are these sentences wrong?....but there is an example in longman dictionary in the entry of "fan" which is : " he's a big fan of Elvis Presley." if it is correct it means we can say " I'm a fan of her" or "I'm a friend of him"?! thx in advance Mohsen

Hello Mohsen.k77

The examples above say a friend of Susan's -- note the 's at the end of Susan. If you wanted to use a pronoun in the place of Susan, you'd have to use hersa friend of hers.

In the case of the phrase you found in the dictionary, that is a use specific to the word fan, in other words, it is like an exception. We talk about fans of a person or team followed by 's, but not with fan. In fact, we often use a noun + noun combination with fan: an Elvis Presley fan.

I hope this helps.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hi Mohsen, possessive pronouns are used to replace previously referenced nouns, "a fan of her" should be 'a fan of hers' (if Susan has already been referenced or implied) because you're using a possessive pronoun 'hers'. In your next example "he's a big fan of Elvis Presley", the corresponding pronoun-antecedent agreement is, 'he's a big fan of his' - if both subject (he) and object (Presley) are already known, 'his' is the possessive pronoun and must agree in gender and number. (also worth reminding "he's" is a contraction of 'he is', subject pronoun + verb) 'I'm a big fan of his' - this is the correct construction using the possessive pronoun if you're saying it about you, and Elvis Presley was previously referenced.
NB my correction on the last example using a pronoun-antecedent agreement for, "he's a big fan of Elvis Presley" was used in context referencing 'Elvis Presley's music/work/personality', expanding on Kirk's point of using a possessive noun ('s) and the "noun + noun combination with fan: an Elvis Presley fan."

Submitted by Maha Leila on Tue, 04/12/2018 - 12:55

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Hello sir, Why we didn't add more (S) to "his" in the next example like the Rest pronouns: Her birthday is on the 12th and "his" is on the 13th. Thanks in advance

Hi Maha Leila,

Could you write out what you mean, please? I don't completely understand what you are suggesting, which makes it difficult for me to help you. Please write the sentence as you think it should be written and I'll try to explain it for you.

Thanks in advance.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

The confusion here may occur because in English 'his' is used for both a possessive adjective preceding a noun (his birthday), and on its own - possessive pronoun. In the given example "his" is a possessive pronoun (and only has one 's'), replacing 'his birthday'.

Submitted by pencil on Mon, 22/10/2018 - 09:09

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Hello Is it entirely wrong to say: No/yes, it is my coat. and only No/yes, it is mine is correct. Or possessive is a better option. Actually I as a learner use the noun phrase but maybe as quoted above it doesn't sound natural. Please guide me. thanks in advance

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 22/10/2018 - 19:03

In reply to by pencil

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Hi pencil,

Both are correct. One or the other might be more natural -- it really depends on the context and how much emphasis (if any) you want to make as the speaker.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team