In the classroom setting, learning the different kinds of pronouns in the English language can leave students confused and wondering what is a possessive pronoun. There are so many different kinds of possessive pronouns, it can take a lot of effort to memorize them and to distinguish which ones are which. An effective way to learn about possessive pronouns is to learn how they function and what they mean, not just learn which words are possessive pronouns.
Possessive pronouns are, in short, exactly that: they are the pronouns that help us show possession in the English language. Usually to show possession, we have two options that are grammatically correct. First, we can use an apostrophe and an s:
Or, we can use of:
However, when we want to use a pronoun to show possession, we cannot use subject pronouns. Does the following sentence make sense?
No: the reason is this. “He” is a subject pronoun. Replace it with the appropriate possessive pronoun, and it will make a lot more sense:
Using possessive pronouns helps English speakers and writers to be more concise and use less words to explain the same idea. You have to consider that the more concise you can be, the greater the chance that the readers will understand. Look at the examples below and determine if you can understand one sentence more than the other:
Often, you will use a possessive pronoun to talk about a person, place, or thing that has been explained in another sentence. In the first example above, you could have explained the complex relationship of the speaker to Pookie’s owner in a few simpler sentences, and then explain that the dog had a heart attack in a separate sentence, using a possessive pronoun.
Now that you understand how they work, try using some of these possessive pronouns in a sentence. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Practicing using possessive pronouns is the best way to get better at using them in English speaking and writing. Here are some examples that use possessive pronouns correctly:
Notice that some of these examples do in fact have many kinds of pronouns in them. Can you determine which ones are the possessive pronouns?
Below are some sentences that contain possessive pronoun mistakes. Can you fix them?
Practice replacing complex possessive structures with simpler possessive pronouns in your everyday speech and writing. Use worksheets or make flash cards to help you memorize the possessive pronouns faster. Speak to your English teacher for more information about what is a possessive pronoun and for more examples to practice using possessive pronouns correctly. For more examples see Examples of Possessive Pronouns.