Possessive pronouns in English (‘my, your’ etc.)

(Rules for possessive pronouns: my, your, his, her, its, our, their)

Table of contents – possessive pronouns

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of possessive pronouns
  2. Adjectival use
  3. Substantival use
  4. Further explanations and exercises

How are possessive pronouns used?

Possessive pronouns indicate the possession of something. In English grammar, there are two fundamental ways of using them – either similar to a noun or similar to an adjective. Compare:

  • On the one hand, possessive pronouns can be used adjectivally (see the use of adjectives for details) in combination with a noun.
  • On the other hand, they can be utilised substantivally if the corresponding noun is mentioned elsewhere in the same sentence, in a previous sentence, or in a subsequent one.

Notice: In contrast to some other languages (such as German, for example) in English, possessive pronouns are not inflected, which means that their form never changes whatever noun is referred to.

Now, take a look at the rules of use and the two tables that display the forms:

Possessive pronouns used as adjectives

Possessive pronouns can be used adjectivally – meaning before a noun. However, the pronoun does not necessarily have to appear directly before it, which means one or more adjectives or sometimes adverbs or other words may be placed between the pronoun and noun. In this function, together with a noun, they are also called possessive determiners. Compare the following forms:

Possessive pronoun before the noun (adjectival use as determiner)

English possessive pronoun Examples
my my phone
your your car
his his computer
her her handbag
its its colour
our our house
your your friend
their their garden
  • Example sentences that show the adjectival use (as determiner before the noun) of possessive pronouns in various positions:
    • “Can you lend me your mobile phone?”
      • The pronoun precedes the noun directly.
    • “I know Jacky’s brother. He’s called ‘little eye’, but his real name is Eric.”
      • Pronoun and noun enclose the adjective ‘real’ here.
    • Our two children are playing in the garden.”
      • Here, the numeral ‘two’ is put between pronoun and noun.
    • My very old email account has been closed.”
      • In this example, the adjective ‘old’ together with its adverb ‘very’ appears between pronoun and noun.

Possessive pronouns used instead of nouns

Possessives can also be utilised substantivally (as a substitute for nouns). If that is the case, the associated noun is mentioned elsewhere in the sentence or context:

Possessive pronouns as a substitute for nouns (substantival use)

English possessive pronoun Examples
mine book → this is mine
yours ball → this is yours
his umbrella → this is his
hers oranges → these are hers
its doors → these are its
ours guitar → this is ours
yours computer → this is yours
theirs glass → this is theirs
  • Some example sentences that demonstrate the use of the English possessive pronouns in place of nouns, which means substantivally. In these occurrences, the related noun is part of the preceding statement:
    • “Are these your glasses? – Yes, they’re mine.”
    • “Have you heard their idea? Ours is better.”
    • “I forgot my pen. Can I borrow yours?”

Further explanations related to the ‘Possessive pronouns’

The following additional explanations are related to the topic ‘Possessive pronouns in English grammar’ and could also be helpful: