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.
Independent possessive pronouns
Let’s start with possessive pronouns, 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:
It sounds repetitive and feels a little unnecessary to state “peace lilies” twice in this sentence. Rewriting with a possessive pronoun simplifies things:
Here are a few more examples of possessive pronouns in action:
As you can see, it is common to see independent possessive pronouns at the ends of clauses or phrases.
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, first take a look at a sentence that does not have any possessive adjectives—and sounds a little clunky as a result:
It sounds odd to use Jane’s name twice in this sentence. A possessive adjective modifying the noun outfits solves the problem:
Thus, possessive adjectives are quite handy and are used frequently in the English language. Here are more examples:
A common mistake: its vs. it’s
A very 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.