Possessive Pronouns | Examples, Definition & List

Nouns and Pronouns updated on  March 8, 2024 4 min read

A possessive pronoun is a type of pronoun that is used to demonstrate ownership of something. In English, there are seven possessive pronouns: “mine,” “ours,” “yours,” “his,” “hers,” “theirs,” and “whose.”

Possessive pronouns are very similar to possessive determiners, but there are differences between the two:

  • Possessive pronouns replace a noun and are used on their own.
  • Possessive determiners (“my,” “our,” “your,” “his,” “her,” “its,” “their,” and “whose”) appear before the noun they modify.

Possessive pronoun and possessive determiner examples

Possessive pronouns

Possessive determiners

That coat is not mine.

My coat has silver buttons.

I think these seats are ours.

Our seats are in the back.

Is this car yours?

Your car is very nice.

That stuff is his.

His stuff is all over the living room.

That cat of hers is always causing problems.

Her cat is so aggressive.

This building is very large; its elevator holds fifty people.

Theirs is the best pizza in the city.

Their pizza has a cornmeal crust.

Whose is this?

Talia, whose laptop was stolen yesterday, is filing a police report.

Note
While “its” can technically function as a possessive pronoun (e.g., “the keyboard is its”), this usage is very uncommon and should be avoided. “Its” is much more commonly used as a possessive determiner (e.g., “its keyboard”).

How to use possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns replace nouns to indicate ownership without repeating the nouns indicating the possessor and the possession (e.g., “Dante says that the book is Dante’s book” becomes “Dante says that the book is his”).

Both possessive pronouns and possessive determiners can indicate literal ownership of an object (e.g., “my bag”) or ownership in a metaphorical sense, such as a relationship with a person or a place (e.g., “my mom”).

Possessives showing relationships examples
My daughter plays lacrosse.
Please say you’ll be mine.
Shauna can’t wait to go back to her hometown.
The house is all yours. We’ll be gone until next week.

Pronoun-antecedent agreement

A possessive pronoun’s antecedent is the person or thing that possesses something or someone. For example, if we say, “Amos claims that the ticket is his,” “Amos” is the antecedent of the pronoun “his.”

Possessive pronouns (and determiners) must agree with their antecedent in terms of person, number, and gender. In the example above, the possessive pronoun “his” is used because “Amos” is used in the third person, is singular, and is male.

Possessive pronoun and antecedent agreement examples
Christian told me the green suitcase was his.
Your apartment is so nice. I don’t like mine.


Subject-verb agreement

When a possessive pronoun is used as the subject of a sentence, it must follow the rules of subject-verb agreement. Thus, the verb following a possessive pronoun can be either singular or plural based on whether what is being possessed (not the possessor) is singular or plural.

Possessive pronoun subject-verb agreement examples
My car is silver, but hers is blue.
His eyes are green, and hers are brown.

Possessive pronouns vs determiners

Possessive pronouns and possessive determiners are very similar and sometimes even have the same form, but they have different grammatical functions.

  • Possessive pronouns always replace a noun and stand on their own.
  • Possessive determiners (also known as possessive adjectives) always come before a noun, which they modify.
Possessive pronouns should only be used when the item being possessed has already been stated or is clear from the context. In cases where this is unclear, a possessive determiner should be used.

Possessive pronoun vs possessive determiner examples
After they had sold theirs, the price increased.
After they had sold their shares, the price increased.

Its vs it’s

“Its” and “it’s” are very frequently confused, but their meanings are completely different.

  • Its is the possessive determiner that is used when discussing something that belongs to a thing or animal.
  • It’s is a contraction that is used for the phrase “it is” or “it has.” The apostrophe indicates that the word has been contracted, not that the word shows ownership.
Its vs it’s examples
This house is amazing. Its kitchen is bigger than my apartment.
It’s a beautiful day outside.

Tip
Similar confusion often happens with the words “whose” and “who’s." Whose indicates possession, while who’s is the contracted form of “who is” or “who has.”

People sometimes confuse these words because possessive nouns use an apostrophe to show possession (e.g., “Davina’s sister’s house”). However, possessive pronouns are not formed with apostrophes, so forms like “your’s,” “our’s,” “her’s,” and “their’s” are incorrect.

Whose

The other possessive pronouns are personal pronouns, but “whose” is a relative pronoun or interrogative pronoun. It is also used as a relative determiner or interrogative determiner.

  • Relative pronouns and determiners are used at the beginning of relative clauses, which give more information about noun phrases.
  • Interrogative pronouns and determiners are used at the beginning of questions, whether direct or indirect.

“Whose” examples
My neighbor, whose dog always gets loose, is building a fence.
The team, one of whose members is injured, lost the game.
Whose are these keys?
They wondered whose idea it was to host a picnic in January.
Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Idioms

Parts of speech

Fallacies

Diamond in the rough

Irregular verb

Slippery slope fallacy

Idioms

Gerund

Sunk cost fallacy

Piece of cake

Infinitive phrase

Red herring fallacy

Better late than never

Infinitive

Appeal to authority fallacy

Salt of the earth

Adverb

Circular reasoning fallacy


Is “my” a pronoun?

“My” is a possessive determiner (sometimes called a possessive adjective), which is a word that precedes a noun and indicates possession (e.g., “my book”).

“My” is not typically classified as a pronoun because it does not take the place of a noun. The related word “mine” is used as a possessive pronoun (e.g., “That one’s mine”).

Some sources do categorize “my” and other possessive determiners as “weak possessive pronouns,” but they are more accurately categorized as determiners.

Is “our” a pronoun?

“Our” is a possessive determiner (sometimes called a possessive adjective), which is a word that comes before a noun and shows possession (e.g., “our house”).

“Our” does not take the place of a noun, so it is not typically classified as a pronoun. Instead, “ours” is used as a possessive pronoun (e.g., “Ours is worth more”).

Some sources do categorize “our” and other possessive determiners as “weak possessive pronouns,” but they are more accurately categorized as determiners.

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Kayla Anderson Hewitt

Kayla has a master's degree in teaching English as a second language. She has taught university-level ESL and first-year composition courses. She also has 15 years of experience as an editor.

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