Table of contents
Possessive forms of pronouns indicate ownership.
- That guitar is his, although I have one that looks just like it.
- If you forgot your key, I can lend you mine.
Possessive adjectives are closely related to possessive pronouns; however, possessive adjectives act as modifiers for nouns, while possessive pronouns act as nouns.
- Your coat is hanging in the closet. (Your modifies the noun coat.)
- The coat in the closet is yours. (Yours is a pronoun; coat is its antecedent.)
The following table shows the possessive adjectives and pronouns for first, second, and third person.
|Possessive pronouns singular/plural||Possessive adjectives singular/plural|
|my / our||mine /ours|
|your / your||yours / yours|
|his, her, its / their||his, hers, its / theirs|
Common Pitfall: Possessive Pronouns and Apostrophes
Because an apostrophe and s added to the end of a noun indicates possession, many writers try to add apostrophes to possessive pronouns.
- Incorrect: your’s, their’s, it’s, her’s
- Correct: yours, theirs, its, hers
- Incorrect: That coat is her’s.
- Correct: That coat is hers.
- Incorrect: The box was missing it’s lid.
- Correct: The box was missing its lid.
Writers also confuse possessives with contractions, which use apostrophes to indicate omitted letters. This confusion is compounded by the fact that the adjectives and contractions are pronounced exactly alike.
- Their = belonging to them
- They’re = contraction of “they are”
- Your = belonging to you
- You’re = contraction of “you are”
- Its = belonging to it
- It’s = contraction of “it is”
- Whose = belonging to who
- Who’s = contraction of “who is”
If you are in doubt as to which form to use in writing, try expanding the contraction to see if it still makes sense.
- That tree has lost it’s/its leaves.
- Incorrect: That tree has lost it is leaves.
- Correct: That tree has lost its leaves. (“the leaves belonging to it”—its is the possessive form)