Understanding the different types of pronouns can be a bit confusing. So when the question, "What is a possessive pronoun?" arises, students may try to run for the door.
What Is a Possessive Pronoun?
There's nothing to be afraid of though. Possessive pronouns are simply the replacement team for nouns or noun phrases that run the risk of sounding repetitive. And, of course, they also show possession.
One of the best ways to understand possessive pronouns is to know how they function in a sentence. Let's take a look.
Defining Possessive Pronouns
Possessive pronouns do exactly what it seems like they should do. They are the pronouns that help us show possession or ownership in a sentence. There are two types of possessive pronouns:
- The strong (or absolute) possessive pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, yours, and theirs. They refer back to a noun or noun phrase already used, replacing it to avoid repetition: "I said that phone was mine."
- The weak possessive pronouns (also called possessive adjectives) are my, your, his, her, its, our, your, and their. They function as determiners in front of a noun to describe who something belongs to: "I said that's my phone."
When we want to use a pronoun to show possession, we cannot use subject pronouns. Does the following make sense?
- This is my brother. He name is Alex.
No. And here's why. "He" is a subject pronoun. Now, if you replace it with the appropriate possessive pronoun, it will make a lot more sense:
- This is my brother. His name is Alex.
Without doubt, possessive pronouns help us to be more concise and use less words when explaining the same idea.
The more concise you can be, the greater the chance the readers will follow what you're saying. Take a look at the examples below and see if you can understand one sentence better than the other:
- Those are my Converse sneakers. They are not your Converse sneakers.
Those are my Converse sneakers. They are not yours.
- I didn't have my textbook for English class, so Brian lent me his textbook.
I didn't have my textbook for English class, so Brian lent me his.
- Your travel plans sound just as exciting as my travel plans!
Your travel plans sound just as exciting as mine!
Generally, you will use possessive pronouns to talk about a person, place, or thing that has already been explained. In the examples above, you can see that each sentiment was neatly expressed in fewer words with a strong possessive pronoun.
Now that you understand how they work, try using some of these possessive pronouns in your own sentences. Here's a reminder of the possessive forms:
Practice Possessive Pronouns
Practicing with possessive pronouns is the best way to familiarize yourself with them. Here are some examples that use possessive pronouns correctly:
- Your cat is adorable, but not as adorable as ours.
- My pen won't work, can I borrow yours?
- The jewelry that the police accused Mrs. Jones of stealing turned out to be hers all along.
- After getting distracted by a phone call, Jim realized he had burned his dinner.
The possessive adjectives are in italics and the absolutes possessive pronouns are in bold. Notice that some of these examples have more than one pronoun in them. Remember, possessive pronouns don't just substitute nouns, they show possession over someone, someplace, or something.
Possessive Pronoun Quiz
As both possessive forms are used to describe ownership it can be easy to confuse them. Below are some sentences that contain possessive pronoun mistakes. Can you fix them? (Answers are below.)
- His paintings were very colorful, but I liked hers paintings better.
- Mine eyes are the color blue.
- I like listening to Bruno Mars more than Michael Jackson, but he dance moves are far more iconic.
Simplify Your Sentences
Being concise is the name of the game no matter what type of material you're drafting. Try to make a conscious effort to replace complex possessive structures with simpler possessive pronouns in your everyday speech and writing. For more examples see Examples of Possessive Pronouns.
- His paintings were very colorful, but I liked her paintings better.
- My eyes are the color blue.
- I like listening to Bruno Mars more than Michael Jackson, but his dance moves are far more iconic.