Possessives

Possessives are forms that we use to talk about possessions and relationships between things and people. They take different forms depending on how they are used.

Read clear grammar explanations and example sentences to help you understand how possessives are used. Then, put your grammar knowledge into practice by doing the exercises.  

Choose a topic and start improving your English grammar today.

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Submitted by Samin on Sun, 24/01/2021 - 12:26

Permalink
Hello again Can you please tell me what's the real difference between concrete and abstract noun Like god, air,light, darkness,song.. Are they concrete or abstract nouns

Hello Samin,

Concrete nouns are generally things that can be perceived by one of the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste or smell). Abstract nouns are ideas or concepts which exist in the mind. Note that concrete nouns do not have to be real: unicorn, dragon and the Starship Enterprise are all concrete nouns.

I would say that all of your examples are concrete nouns, though in certain contexts some could be used as abstract nouns.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yigido on Fri, 25/12/2020 - 08:19

Permalink
Hi team, I read in my grammar book ''Possession-'s- can not use in things'' as You can not say -notebook's cover-,but I have seen this sentence in news''America's industrial giants''Which one is true can we use -'s' things or can not we use?

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sun, 27/12/2020 - 04:41

In reply to by Yigido

Permalink

Hi Yigido,

It's a good question :) The short answer to your question is yes - we can use the possessive 's for things. However, the situation is a bit complicated, and it depends on what the thing is and the context of use.

 

As you mentioned, books often teach that the possessive 's cannot be used for things. But, this is only a general pattern, not a strict grammatical rule. Words about places and countries often use the possessive 's, and so do words about companies or institutions, and words about time.

  • the country's government
  • France's most famous building
  • Apple's CEO
  • the university's reputation
  • today's schedule
  • tomorrow's weather

 

It's true that for physical objects, people tend not to use the possessive 's. People more commonly say, for example: 

  • the car door or the door of the car (instead of the car's door)
  • the bottle top or the top of the bottle (instead of the bottle's top)

Your example of the notebook's cover is another example of this. I would probably say the cover of the notebook here. But it's important to realise that even though using the possessive 's is less common, it's not impossible, and you might hear or see these forms being occasionally used.

 

In my opinion, using the possessive 's (e.g. the car's door) gives slightly more emphasis to the possessor (i.e. the car). We might use this if we want to maintain focus on the possessor, e.g. We need to repair this car's door, not that car's door. The alternative forms give slightly more emphasis to the thing that is possessed (i.e. the door in the car door or the door of the car), so we might use this if there's no need to emphasise the possessor, e.g. We need to repair the car door, not the window.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 12:35

Permalink
Sir, I have not been able to find the page for prepositions - so this question in this section. Please provide me the link for preposition page if there is any . My friend has expired at a very young age. In my condolence message I put this sentence : 'Not an age to leave this world at.' I intended to end the sentence with preposition. What I mean is it is sad that he had to leave this world at this age. But I feel that I am erring in thew construction - it is wrong to end with 'at'. Please guide me and explain what this 'at' associates with in this sentence. Regards Dipak Gandhi

Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 15:23

In reply to by dipakrgandhi

Permalink

Hi dipakrgandhi,

Thanks for your question. We don't have a specific section for prepositions at the moment.

First of all, condolences for the loss of your friend.

Your sentence ending with at is a correct sentence. At relates to the noun age earlier in the sentence. 

Traditionally, it is sometimes taught that we should not end a sentence with a preposition, as you mention. However, speakers and writers actually do this very often, especially in everyday language use, so your sentence is perfectly acceptable.

You could rephrase it like this, e.g.: Not an age at which to leave this world. But this sounds rather more formal in style, and is unnecessary for all but the most formal situations.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you - for your condolence message and for the answer !

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 05:55

Permalink
My son has posted this comment on his college what's app group : Please pay the fees of 2 nd year. I told him that it should be : 1) Please pay the second year fees. or 2) Please pay the fees for 2nd year. He wants to know why "... of the second year" is wrong. How do I explain him that it is wrong grammatically. Please help.

Hello dipakrgandhi,

You are correct that it is not the standard way to express this, and your suggestions are much better.

I wouldn't say that there is a grammar rule which explains why your son's formulation is not correct. It's more a case of convention.

You can use of in this way: the fees of the university. When talking about the period which they cover, use forthe fees for the second year.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by NoelBiju17 on Fri, 13/03/2020 - 05:07

Permalink
I have a doubt. Is it grammatically correct to say : "I struck him by the face" ?

Hello NoelBiju17,

If you want to say where a blow fell, then the correct form is 'struck in'. However, you could use by with the sense of next to, if that was your intention.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Mon, 11/11/2019 - 14:20

Permalink
Hello I would like to ask if the following is correct 1.My friends say that it is a great flat, but to me is just "my sweet home" or 2.... but for me is just "home sweet home" Thank you in advance

Submitted by anie1 on Mon, 11/11/2019 - 14:16

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct 1.The house many rooms and of of them is the study or 2.The house has many rooms and one of those is the study, 3.study or the study room? Thank you in advance

Submitted by InmaLD on Mon, 23/09/2019 - 18:19

Permalink
What is the difference between " 's " and "of"? e.g.: 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.)

Hello InmaLD

Except for the fact that the first forms suggest that Susan has more than one friend, there is no real difference in meaning between the two forms.

Just as you can say 'mi amiga' or 'una amiga mía', but not 'una mi amiga', in English you can say 'my friend' or 'a friend of mine', but not 'a my friend'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sun, 31/03/2019 - 11:25

Permalink
Hello admins, I'm not really sure when to use possesives correctly. For example, they coordinated (their) opinions and introduced (the/ their) discussions afterward. Could you give us some explanation?
Hi Rafaela1 In general, we use the possessive form when the thing mentioned (for example, here, 'opinions' and 'discussions') 'belongs' in some way to the person or people. It's difficult for me to say anything for sure about the sentence you mention, because I don't completely understand what it refers to, but 'their' before opinions shows that the opinions are the opinions of 'they' (and not other people). As for 'discussions', it's not clear to me which discussions these are, so it's difficult to advise you on that one. If the discussions are discussions that the same people who coordinated their opinions have had, then 'their' is probably correct. I hope this helps you, but if you have any other questions, please let us know. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vidyaarthi on Thu, 07/02/2019 - 15:25

Permalink
Is the statement " There is a garden in their house." correct?

Hello Vidyaarthi,

The sentence is grammatically correct. However, it would be unusual (but not impossible) to have a garden inside a house. Generally the garden is outside the house.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Adya's on Sun, 17/06/2018 - 04:37

Permalink
Hi Is there a rule restricting the number of apostrophe 's to be used in a phrase to indicate possession? For example, is the following sentence correct? My friend's father's friend's house is beautiful. I have searched a lot on the internet for a reliable page on the topic, but in vain. Can you please suggest one? Regards

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 17/06/2018 - 07:18

In reply to by Adya's

Permalink

Hi Adya's,

There is no rule for this. However, common sense tells us that multiple examples of possessive 's will make a sentence clumsy, inelegant and possibly hard to follow. It's very unusual to see more than two in a row.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by CascadeGorge on Sun, 06/05/2018 - 17:40

Permalink
Responding to Peter M's comment: "Both progressive and continuous are used interchangeably in British English. Progressive is the older, more traditional form; continuous has come into use more recently. I'm from the UK and I'm not sure about typical US usage, I'm afraid." American/U.S. English speaker, here. I have never seen the words, "progressive" and "continuous" used interchangeably in American English. It might be a cultural difference that makes them interchangeable in the UK, but I am at a loss to know how that is possible because their definitions are distinct.

Submitted by zenger62 on Fri, 20/04/2018 - 07:26

Permalink
Dear Sir, Susan is one of my friends. or Susan is a friend of mine. They are all correct. But I'd like to ask you the question: when do we use the first one ? and when do we use the second one?

Hello zenger62,

I don't think there are any contexts in which one of these would be preferred over the other. Neither has any particular stylistic (formal, informal) tone and they can be used interchangeably.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by leonard777 on Fri, 13/04/2018 - 18:27

Permalink
I am really sorry, but I've found some technical problems with this part of the site. The site does't or can't explain- possessives: nouns possessives: adjectives possessives: pronouns possessives: questions possessives: reciprocal pronouns What can I do. I adore this site , that's why I want you to know about these kind of problems. Please solve those problems. I know that you can. It has primary importance for me. I am a teacher and I have to know some materials from your site. Pleas check and notify. Thanks a million!

Hello leonard777,

Thank you for flagging this. We are already aware of some problems with the links on the site leading to the wrong pages and we have asked our technical team to address this.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi leonard777,

As Peter said, we are working on this and apologise for the inconvenience. I'm happy to report, however, that although the links are broken, there is another way to get to these pages -- please try the links below and I think they should work for you:

possessives: nouns
possessives: adjectives
possessives: pronouns
possessives: questions
possessives: reciprocal pronouns

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sad on Fri, 13/04/2018 - 14:12

Permalink
Hi. Is Progressive same as Continuoues? They say that progressive is used in American English while Continuoues is used in British English. Please clarify. Thanks

Submitted by leonard777 on Fri, 13/04/2018 - 18:33

In reply to by Sad

Permalink
Yes, absolutely they are the same. Don't doubt. Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 14/04/2018 - 06:54

In reply to by Sad

Permalink

Hello Sad,

Both progressive and continuous are used interchangeably in British English. Progressive is the older, more traditional form; continuous has come into use more recently. I'm from the UK and I'm not sure about typical US usage, I'm afraid.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, Please help me solve these two grammatical problems: 1) I saw them do it yesterday 2) I saw them doing it yesterday Which is the correct sentence? If both are grammatically correct, then what's the difference between the two sentences? Under what grammatical rule do they fall? And when can I use each of them? I mean under what circumstances can I use each of them? Thanks

Hello roc1,

Both sentences are grammatically correct but there is s difference in meaning.

 

I saw them do it yesterday

This means that you saw the whole action to completion.

 

I saw them doing it yesterday

This means that you saw the action in progress (after it had begun but before it ended) but did not necessarily see the end.

 

Thus, if I say I saw them painting the kitchen then it is not clear if the work is finished. If I say I saw them paint the kitchen then I saw them finish the job.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nabdul on Sun, 08/04/2018 - 19:34

Permalink
is there any problem with your website?

Hello Nabul,

There is no problem that I am aware of. Are you having trouble accessing the site?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marua on Wed, 04/04/2018 - 11:30

Permalink
Hi. I've got one question. Is this title correct? 'The Saint Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians' Or: ' The Epistle of Saint Apostle to the Ephesians'. As far as I can remember, we use possessive 's for people. But there are some cases in which we can use 'of'... Also, I thought that I could use some synonims: disciple=apostle; epistle=letter. Which is the appropriate title when it comes to academic writing? Thank you.

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 05/04/2018 - 06:42

In reply to by Marua

Permalink

Hi Marua,

There are different ways of referring to this book, including 'The Epistle to the Ephesians' or simply 'Ephesians'. I'm not very knowledgeable about the Bible, but when referring to Paul, what sounds natural to me is 'Saint Paul', 'Paul the Apostle' or 'the Apostle Paul' -- I think it's unusual to combine 'saint' and 'apostle' in the same title, though I may be wrong about that.

You're right in thinking that the possessive 's is usually used to refer to possessions, relationships and physical characteristics of people or animals, though we also use it with words that refer to groups of people (e.g. 'government' and countries). There are many exceptions to this rule, however, and when the noun phrases involved are complex, sometimes 'of' is used instead of 's.

In this case, I'd probably just say 'Epistle to the Ephesians', but if I wanted to include Paul, I'd probably say 'Saint Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by gibology on Tue, 03/04/2018 - 07:52

Permalink
hi, I still cannot access the various sections of this page. Will it be fixed soon? Thanks

Hi gibology,

I'm very sorry for the inconvenience, but I'm afraid we haven't been able to fix it yet. I assure you we are working on it; in the meantime, you might want to look at the Grammar videos on LearnEnglish Teens or the Grammar section of the Cambridge Dictionary.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by montseta on Wed, 21/03/2018 - 11:15

Permalink
I can't view any lesson about the possessives case

Hello montseta,

Thanks for telling us about this. Our technical team is trying to fix this section. Hopefully the problem will be solved soon.

We're very sorry for the inconvenience!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by A H Wani on Wed, 21/03/2018 - 07:55

Permalink
I have a question and please answer it. "Family" means wife or husband, children including adopted children, step children and parents living with the government servant. Parents in the definition of family above will include only such parents whose monthly income does not exceed rupees 5000. In the above sentence does it mean monthly income of individual parent or monthly income of both the parents in aggregation.

Hi A H Wani,

I'm afraid it's not clear. In other words, it could mean them separately or as an aggregate.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by PhmNgocNghia on Tue, 20/03/2018 - 10:17

Permalink
Hello, I can't view any article of possessives pronouns lession What happend ?

Hi PhmNgocNghia,

Thanks for telling us about this. Our technical team is trying to fix this section. Hopefully the problem will be solved soon.

We're very sorry for the inconvenience!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gema Konka on Sat, 10/03/2018 - 17:41

Permalink
Hello, I have a question. If someone asks "What type of food does your cat eat?" Which sentence will be right? A.- It eats cat food. B.- It eats cat's food. Thank you in advance.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 11/03/2018 - 07:49

In reply to by Gema Konka

Permalink

Hello Gema Konka,

The first sentence is correct.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team