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Possessive Pronouns and Possessive Adjectives: Rules and Examples

As their names imply, both possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns show ownership. The independent possessive pronouns are mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, and theirs. The possessive adjectives, also called possessive determiners, are my, our, your, his, her, its, and their. We break down each type and offer examples of their usage below.

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Independent possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns are a type of possessive noun. Also called absolute possessive pronouns, possessive pronouns simplify constructions that show possession of a noun by replacing it—in other words, independent possessive pronouns must stand alone and be used without a noun. To understand how possessive pronouns can make things simpler and clearer, first take a look at this example of a sentence that does not use a possessive pronoun:

Raúl’s peace lilies were healthier than my peace lilies.

It sounds repetitive and feels a little unnecessary to state “peace lilies” twice in this sentence. Rewriting with a possessive pronoun simplifies things: 

Raúl’s peace lilies were healthier than mine.

Possessive pronoun examples

My phone is dead. Pass me yours.

Did you know that Labrador is mine?

The house on the corner is theirs.

As you can see, it is common to see independent possessive pronouns at the ends of clauses or phrases.

Possessive adjectives

Possessive adjectives also clarify who or what owns something. Unlike possessive pronouns—which replace nouns—possessive adjectives go before nouns to modify them.

Like independent possessive pronouns, possessive adjectives can help streamline sentences. To see what we mean, take a look at a sentence that does not have any possessive adjectives—and sounds a little clunky as a result:

Jane takes pride in Jane’s outfits.

It sounds odd to use Jane’s name twice in this sentence. A possessive adjective modifying the noun outfits solves the problem:

Jane takes pride in her outfits.

Thus, possessive adjectives are quite handy and are used frequently in the English language. 

Possessive adjective examples

My plane is delayed.

Your dinner is ready.

Could you bring his tea out to him?

Remember not to judge a book by its cover.

I would have knocked on their door, but I heard their baby crying.

A common mistake: its vs. it’s

A common mistake is putting an apostrophe in the possessive adjective its. It is easy to confuse its with the contraction of it is, it’s, which does have an apostrophe. Remember, though, possessive adjectives never use apostrophes.

The boat lost it’s mast in the storm.

The boat lost its mast in the storm.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

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