Two Spider-Men pointing at each other. The text reads

Whose is it?!

In speaking or writing, we often need to show possession: who or what has something. 

Possessive nouns, adjectives, and pronouns help us show possession in English:

  • Possessive noun: Spider-Man's suit

  • Possessive adjective: That's my suit!

  • Possessive pronoun: That's mine!

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But only possessive pronouns have a superpower: they help us use fewer words.

Which words are possessive pronouns?

English has six possessive pronouns: mine, yours, his, hers, ours, and theirs

Some people include "its", but many use this one only as a possessive adjective, not a possessive pronoun.

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A possessive pronoun replaces a possessive noun phrase (any noun or pronoun that shows possession over something else). That’s how it helps us use fewer words!


Chart: examples of using possessive noun phrases vs. using possessive pronouns (audio description below). To hear audio description of the table above, click the play button on the audio player below:

Example conversation

Have you ever seen small children fight over a toy?

A Thomas the Tank Engine toy on a track with other toy train cars. Photo by David Trinks on Unsplash

These children would use possessive pronouns. The conversation may go like this:

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Child 1: The blue train is mine

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Child 2: It’s not yours, it’s mine!

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Child 1: But my friend gave it to me. It was hers, now it’s mine!

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Child 2: No, that’s the green train! Dad gave this one to me. It was his when he was a kid, now it’s mine!

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Child 1: No, it’s not! Dad says his old trains are for both of us. They’re ours together! But this blue train is mine!

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Think about this sentence in the children’s fight: "It’s not yours, it’s mine!" "Yours" and "mine" are possessive pronouns, so they replace noun phrases. What words does *yours* replace?

Choosing the right possessive pronoun

In the children’s fight, they use most of the six possessive pronouns.

How do they know which one to choose?

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They think of the owner, the one who has something. Then, they match the possessive pronoun to the owner. (In fact, they fight about the owner!)

How to choose a possessive pronoun:

A table of possessive pronouns (audio description below). Audio description of this table:

New pronouns!

Some people use pronouns for gender identities that aren't in the traditional list above. When people list their pronouns, the possessive pronoun is usually last: ze/zir/zirs, sie/hir/hirs.


Which pronoun should go in the blank spot? "David (male) and Anna (female) each have a cat. His cat is named Katerina, and ____ is named Lionel."

What about "your" and "their"?

Lisa Simpson with a friendly expression looking out of the frame saying,

Many examples in this Byte have possessive adjectives: my, your, his, her, its, our, and their. Possessive adjectives are sometimes called possessive determiners.

Flaticon Icon Possessive pronouns and possessive adjectives are like many siblings: they look and sound alike, but they act differently.

Possessive adjectives always modify (go with) a noun:

  • That’s my painting. ✅ ⚠️ NOT: That’s my. ❌

  • I met your dad. ✅ ⚠️ NOT: I met your. ❌

Possessive pronouns don’t go with a noun. You can use them when there is more information before them.

  • This painting is hers. That's mine.

  • You met my dad, and I met yours.

"He's a great friend of mine"

A woman smiling. She says,

Sometimes we use the preposition of with a possessive pronoun. The pronoun still shows possession.


  • This is Alison, and Jack is a friend of hers. = This is Alison, and Jack is one of her friends.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Novak were donors of ours. = Mr. and Mrs. Novak were some of our donors.

  • Some paintings of mine are in the new gallery. = Some of my paintings are in the new gallery.

Using of + a possessive pronoun doesn't always make a sentence shorter. It's a different choice for word order and rhythm.

Quiz: Possessive pronouns at the Olympics!

Imagine that you are watching the Olympics on TV. Your country’s soccer/football team is playing!

Soccer/football stadium view of a whole field from high seats. Photo by Mario Klassen on Unsplash

The TV announcer says these sentences:

  1. The victory is ours!

  2. They din't see this teammate of theirs by the goal!

  3. This is her second goal today!

  4. The ball isn’t your now!


Which ones *correctly use* a possessive pronoun? There can be more than one answer:

Take Action

Possessive pronouns are useful every day. It's time to practice!

TV character Mr. Bean stops a friend from taking popcorn from his large popcorn container at the movie theater.


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