Possessive adjective masterclass

This post helps us understand what a possessive adjective is, and how and when to use it correctly in a sentence.

What is an adjective?

An adjective is a word, phrase, or clause that modifies a noun or pronoun by giving information about it.

What is a Possessive adjective?

A possessive adjective is a word that sits before a noun and modifies it by talking about its possession (who it belongs to). Here are the possessive adjectives we have in English:

my, your, his, her, our, their, its

Examples:

  • My application is doing great these days.

The possessive adjective ‘my’ is modifying the noun ‘application’ and telling us who owns it. It is I who owns it.

  • Look at his face. He looks mad to me.

Here, the adjective ‘his’ is modifying the noun ‘face’ and telling it belongs to.

  • Our parents have done so much for us.

Here, the possessive adjective ‘our’ is referring to the possession of the noun ‘parents’. It is important to note that we don’t literally own our parents; it basically means that they are a part of us. They belong to us.

  • I won’t go to her place. I am scared of her dogs.

In this sentence, the possessive adjective ‘her’ is modifying two nouns: place and dogs. The place and dogs belong to her.

  • They were not selected of their attitude.

The adjective ‘their’ is referring to and modifying the noun ‘attitude’. It’s telling us who it belongs to; it’s they (referring to some people) who it belongs to.

  • I bought this bike last year. Its performance has been amazing.

Here, ‘its’ is referring to the performance of the company.

Check out adjective phrases and adjective clauses in English.

More examples:

  • Don’t bring my family into this. They have nothing to do with it
  • Why are you looking into his bag? That’s not the right thing to do.
  • I love her, but I can’t tolerate her tantrums.
  • She will return your money in the evening.
  • We love what they did, but we don’t support their way of doing it.
  • Their parents won’t join the meeting. Let’s move on without them.
  • You can wear this sweater. Its wool feels very soft.
  • I know the car is quite old. But its engine is fresh and hasn’t been opened.

Key points

1. Possessive adjectives are different from possessive pronouns.

Note that possessive pronouns are not followed by a noun, and possessive adjectives are.

  • My job is not interesting. But yours is amazing. (possessive pronoun)
  • Your job is amazing. (possessive adjective)
  • This car is mine. Please don’t tow it. (possessive pronoun)
  • Please don’t tow my car. (possessive adjective)
Subjective pronounObjective pronounPossessive pronoun Possessive adjective
Imeminemy
Weusoursour
Youyouyoursyour
Hehimhishis
Sheherhersher
Ititoften not used aloneits
Theythemtheirstheir

2. Use the singular neutral possessive adjective ‘THEIR‘ instead of using ‘HIS/HER‘.

  • Every teacher needs to take responsibility for his class.

The word ‘his’ is referring to the possession of the noun ‘teacher’. But using ‘his’ makes it clear that the noun is masculine, which we are not sure of as ‘teacher’ is a neutral noun. The gender of the noun is not clear. So, using ‘his’ makes the speaker a little sexist towards women. And if the speaker uses ‘her’ in place of ‘his’, they will be considered sexist towards men.

  • Every teacher needs to take responsibility for her class.
  • Here, the speaker looks sexist towards men. The solution to this problem is the singular neutral possessive adjective ‘THEIR‘.

    Every teacher needs to take responsibility for their class.

    3. Don’t confuse ‘its‘ with ‘it’s‘.

    People often confuse the possessive adjective ‘its with the expression ‘it’s. The expression ‘it’s’ means ‘it is. You should confuse it with ‘its’ as ‘it’s’ has an apostrophe in it, and a possessive adjective does not have an apostrophe in it.

    • It’s raining outside. (it is)
    • You can buy this water cooler. Its price is quite economical. (possessive adjective)

    Also, don’t confuse ‘their‘ with ‘they’re‘, and ‘your‘ with ‘you’re.

    You’re = you are
    They’re = they are

    4. ‘ITS’ refers to the possession of a thing or an animal or pet.

    We don’t use ‘its’ to show the possession of a person; it is specifically used to show the possession of an object (thing) or an animal.

    • I saw a person at the station. Its face was peculiar. ❌
    • I saw a person at the station. Their face was peculiar. ✅
    • I need your music system. Its base is just amazing. ✅

    5. We can use another adjective or determiner after a possessive adjective.

    We can use another adjective or determiner (works as an adjective) after the possessive adjective.

    • Look at his face.
    • Look at his sweet face.
    • Look at his swollen face.

    FAQs

    What are possessive adjectives in English?

    A possessive adjective is a word that sits before a noun and modifies it by talking about its possession (who it belongs to). Here are the possessive adjectives we have in English: my, your, his, her, our, their, its

    What is the difference between a possessive pronoun and a possessive adjective?

    Possessive pronouns are not followed by a noun, and possessive adjectives are.

    How do you identify a possessive adjective?

    We can easily identify a possessive adjective. It is followed by a noun. Ex – your friend, his car, your house, etc. Also, note that we can use another adjective between the possessive adjective and the noun it modifies. Ex – your American friend, his small car, your expensive house.

    What are the 7 possessive pronouns?

    The 7 possessive adjectives are my, your, his, her, our, their, & its.

    What is a possessive adjective example?

    1. I love her, but I can’t tolerate her tantrums.
    2. She will return your money in the evening.
    3. We love what they did, but we don’t support their way of doing it.

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