Possessive Pronouns

What are Possessive Pronouns?

As its name suggests, possessive pronouns indicate possession or someone owning something. In the sentence “That’s Gregory’s seat and this is mine”, the word mine is a possessive pronoun. Possessive pronouns substitute nouns or noun phrases that display ownership. The most common possessive pronouns are the following: his, hers, theirs, mine, yours, its (rarely used), and ours. Let’s look at some examples of possessive pronouns in sentences:

  • I can’t believe that the largest room in the house is mine.
  • If your laptop is running low on power, you can use his.
  • This cabin is theirs, but they let us use it once in a while.
  • Liam’s Marvel card collection is yours now, so do what you want with them.
  • This guidebook is hers so you should ask permission before using it.

Before we get into detail with possessive pronouns, it’s crucial for English language learners to be aware of how modern instruction has evolved. It will eliminate confusion and distraction from the technical elements that constantly change regarding teaching English. In traditional grammar, the term “possessive adjectives” was used to call “dependent possessive pronouns.” (versus independent or absolute pronouns, which can stand alone. These are words that usually appear before what someone or something owns. They can’t be used by themselves, hence the “dependent” tag: my, your, his, her, its, our, and their. They were previously considered adjectives because they introduce possessions instead of replacing them. This rule has since been amended, as they are decidedly “pronominal,” which means having the same functions as pronouns. Let’s take a look at the following sentences:

  • That’s not my lunch. It’s Yulee’s.
  • Well, this is our office. We’re expanding so please excuse the mess.
  • Tricia has been looking for her books since the second period.
  • The kite is stuck because its tail snagged along some branches.
  • He parked his bicycle in a safe spot but forgot to lock it.

In contemporary English studies, they are called possessive determiners to avoid mix-ups. However, English books or reference materials aren’t always updated to follow these changes, which is why it’s important to know instructional developments. At some point, you’ll come across former word classifications. It’s helpful to know that the terms dependent possessive pronouns, possessive adjectives, possessives, and possessive determiners refer to one and the same set of words. For the sake of clarity, we will use the term possessive pronouns for independent possessives and possessive determiners for those classified as dependent (but we shall use “possessive pronouns” when talking about them as a whole).

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Possessive Pronouns Rules

Pronouns and DeterminersAs discussed earlier, there are two kinds of possessives: possessive pronouns (also, absolute or independent pronouns) and possessive determiners (also, dependent pronouns).

Possessive Determiners: his, her, my, your, its, our, and their

These pronouns are “dependent” on the nouns that follow them. For example:

Her position in the company demands respect.
Their dog is beloved in the whole neighborhood.
His proposal raised some eyebrows but in a good way.

Possessive Pronouns: mine, ours, yours, his, hers, and theirs

These pronouns don’t need nouns to follow them to make sense. They replace both the owner and the possession. They typically appear at the end of sentences or clauses. If the antecedent isn’t known to the people involved, the information should be included before the possessive pronoun appears. For example, the sentence “That’s hers” is vague without context (you don’t know which possession is being talked about).

Here are possessive pronouns in sentences:

– The expensive-looking motorbike parked up front is hers.
– Well, if they say the money isn’t theirs, I guess you can keep it.
– I don’t think the documents at the breakroom are his.
Subject-Verb AgreementPronouns function similarly to nouns and can be used as subjects and objects. As subjects, they follow the same rules on subject-verb agreement. It’s easy to follow this rule with possessive determiners as the possessions that follow them indicate number. With possessive pronouns, you must apply subject-verb rules to the antecedents.

Singular possessive pronouns:


Plural possessive pronouns:


Let’s look at how they’re used as subjects:

– For a tiny house, theirs is quite spacious. (the antecedent “tiny house” is singular)
Their house is quite spacious.
– He has so many toys and all of his are new. (the antecedent “toys” is plural)
– All his toys are new.
PunctuationWhile a noun needs an apostrophe (‘) to display possession, a possessive pronoun doesn’t. With pronouns, apostrophes identify contractions, such as it’s which is a contraction of it = is. The possessive pronoun is simply its.
Table of Rules for Possessive Pronouns
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Examples of Possessive Pronouns

1. As independent possessive pronouns:

  • Stop blaming yourself. It’s not your fault, it’s his.
  • Eula failed to prove that the credit card is hers.
  • The responsibility is theirs, so the firm is not liable.
  • Not Anne’s house again. Why don’t we hold it at yours, instead?
  • They stole the design. The credit should have been mine.

2. As possessive determiners

  • Excuse me, I think you dropped your ID.
  • I’m upset because you always take her side.
  • Their explanation is kind of half-baked.
  • I’m sorry to say but his research has a lot of holes.
  • “Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Possessive Pronouns Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Possessive Pronouns

Pick the correct possessive pronoun to complete the following sentences:

1. She didn’t want to tell __________ parents that she was top of the class just yet.

a. her     

b. hers

2. The company has __________ own retreat house for team-building events and stuff.

a. it

b. its

3. The regional account is __________ so you should reroute the call to them.

a. their

b. theirs

4. We couldn’t believe that the award was __________ for a long moment.

a. our

b. ours

5. Several students groaned because __________ grades were disappointing.

a. their

b. theirs


Pick the correct possessive pronoun to complete the following sentences:

1. a: She didn’t want to tell her parents that she was top of the class just yet.

2. a: The company has its own retreat house for team-building and stuff.

3. b: The regional account is theirs so you should reroute the call to them.

4. b: We couldn’t believe that the award was ours for a long moment.

5. a: Several students groaned because their grades were disappointing.

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Possessive Pronouns List

Below is a list of personal pronouns and the possessive forms that correspond to each:

Personal PronounPossessive DeterminerPossessive Pronoun
Table of Possessive Pronouns Listed According to Type

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Use Grammar ListsLearning tools for the English language such as lists, tables, and charts are useful grammar guides. Obviously, they can’t replace books. However, they trim down complex and lengthy grammar topics into simplified versions, making them easy to use for side-by-side comparisons and speedy reviews. But the ultimate way to take advantage of this learning method is to create your own lists from your English lessons. Your materials will be personalized and designed according to your own learning preferences. Creating lists also maximizes the time you spend with whatever topic you’re learning, which promotes knowledge retention.
Use Audio-Visual ResourcesIndependent learning is part of studying languages. Most students realize early that they can’t depend solely on English classes. Unless they’re studying, say, 3 hours a day 5 days a week, they won’t achieve fluency within any timeframe. To take full advantage of self-studying, you should use the right tools and English media is one of them. By incorporating your favorite TV shows, social media channels, films, and podcasts into your daily routine, you’ll be exposed to how English speakers the language in any setting: social, academic, and professional. This will significantly increase your vocabulary and sentence construction skills as long as you consume media with the intention of learning various elements of the English language.
Practical UseIf you use most of your time on books but don’t pay the same attention to real-life English conversations, you could accomplish high proficiency levels in grammar but still have immense difficulty talking to a native speaker at length. The only real way of using what you’ve learned is to apply it. Unfortunately, most English language learners live in places where English isn’t commonly spoken. If this is the case for you, you could reject accepting your circumstances. There’s always a way to make an English environment for yourself where you can explore it with others who have the same language goals. Organize a study group with your classmates and friends; and whenever possible, cultivate relationships with both native and non-native speakers. Not only will you be smarter in English, but you’ll also develop social and cultural intelligence as well. Consistent practice is crucial and valuable. You will be able to improve your fluency in ways that aren’t possible with books.
Advice for English Learners Table
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Common Errors Made by English Learners

Common ErrorsExplanation
Mixing possessivesSome English language learners are still caught saying things such as “This is mine lunch” instead of using the correct form – “This is my lunch.” If you catch yourself making the same error, try to listen to what you’re saying next time and ensure that you’re using the right possessive pronoun.
It’sThe possessive “its” isn’t commonly used as an independent possessive pronoun in both writing and speaking. You’ve probably never heard this once in all the movies you’ve seen. Be that as it may, the most common mistake with “its” is using an apostrophe (i.e., it’s). Remember: possessive pronouns aren’t punctuated.
Similar-sounding wordsThe bane of the grammar police: your and you’re; they’re, their, and their; theirs and there’s; his and he’s. Obviously, this error only exists in writing. Let’s look at the following incorrect usage of possessive pronouns in sentences:
– You’re
grandmother wants to ask you an iPhone question.
– Are you there guardians on the school trip?
They’re dog has been barking non-stop.

While it’s common and incredibly easy to confuse these possessive pronouns with other words that sound like them, be more vigilant regarding your won usage. Misspelling these words often leads to a loss of credibility, especially in a professional environment.
Possessive Pronouns Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Possessive Pronouns

The following list includes points to remember when studying possessive pronouns:

  1. The possessives “his” and “its” have the same form both as a possessive pronoun and possessive determiner. However, “its” is almost never used as an independent possessive pronoun.
  2. Possessive pronouns follow the number of owners, not the number of belongings.
  3. To make your writing or speech easier to follow, use possessive pronouns to avoid repetitious storytelling.
  4. Sometimes possessive pronouns do not show ownership, but rather indicate relationships. For example, My country is in hot water now.
  5. Adjectives can be used between possessive pronouns and nouns to modify or add more detail to the nouns. For example, “her favorite food,” “our airplane seats,” “his dirty sweatshirt,” and so on.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand reflexive pronouns and personal pronouns.

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Possessive Pronouns Frequently Asked Questions

Personal pronouns are the base forms from which other types of pronouns are formed. Let’s look at the list below:

Subject pronouns:

I, you, he, she, it, they, we

Object pronouns:

Me, you, him, her, it, them. us

The word “whose” is an interrogative pronoun that replaces possessive pronouns in questions.

Depending on the book or reference you’re using, the types of pronouns vary in number. Below are the most common ones:

1. Relative Pronouns
2. Possessive Pronouns
3. Reflexive Pronouns
4. Demonstrative Pronouns
5. Interrogative Pronouns
6. Indefinite Pronouns
7. Personal Pronouns
8. Subject Pronouns
9. Object Pronouns

Some books consider Reciprocal and Intensive Pronouns as their own types, while others list them down as sub-types.

For more comprehensive content regarding each type of pronoun, do check out LillyPad.ai’s Grammar Page for dedicated articles on all grammar topics.

Traditional English grammar called them possessive adjectives because they appear before nouns and modify them in a way. But they have been identified as substitutes for the owners of the possessions in the sentence. For example:

That’s Ryan’s car. = It’s his car.

The word “his” replaces the noun “Ryan’s”, which makes the word a pronoun rather than an adjective.

The pronoun “its” is a gender-neutral word for animals; there’s no human equivalent. Because of this, English speakers have been forced to use “their” as the gender-neutral singular possessive determiner. In a sentence such as “Each member has to bring his uniform to be checked.” The pronoun his is improper if there are female members. So, the word “their” replaces it.

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