We use possessive adjectives and pronouns to talk about things we own (e.g. my car), people we have a relationship with (e.g. my friend), parts of the body and thoughts/feelings we have (e.g. my hand, my love, my idea).
- my (My mother is here.)
- your (Your car is red.)
- his (His hair is dark.)
- her (Her smile is beautiful.)
- its (This is my chair. Its leg is broken.)
- our (Our apartment is small.)
- their (Their children are very smart.)
- whose (*The man whose hair is dark is my father.)
The sentence The man whose hair is dark is my father is compound because it has 2 subjects (the man and hair) and 2 predicates (is and is). The part whose hair is dark is a relative clause. When you are ready, read this article for more information about relative clauses.
- mine (This cat is mine.)
- yours (That bag is yours.)
- his (The book is his.)
- hers (This is a house of hers.)
- its* (The shell is its, not mine or yours.)
- ours (The time is ours.)
- theirs (The garden is theirs.)
*We use the possessive pronoun its extremely rarely. According to some books (for example, “Oxford Living Grammar Intermediate” by N.Coe), it doesn’t even exist. But its is very common as a possessive adjective.
We use possessive pronouns to talk about something that we have (see the examples above). We also use possessive pronouns when we know which thing we are referring to: 1) My smartphone is one year old. How old is yours? (= your smartphone) 2) This is your notebook, and this is mine. (= my notebook)
“A friend of mine” means “one of my friends.” It’s not the same as “my friend” because “my friend” doesn’t imply that there are more friends, but “a friend of mine” does. Examples:
I’m going to a wedding on Saturday. A friend of mine is getting married. (I have many friends and one of them is getting married.)
We often go on holiday with some friends of ours.
Jack sometimes has arguments with a neighbor of his.
It’s a good idea of yours. (You have many good ideas, and it’s one of them.)
We use ‘s mostly for people or animals:
Jack‘s fridge is not working.
How old are Mary‘s children?
What is your mother‘s name?
The cat‘s fur is black.
You will sometimes see names that end in s without the addition of ‘s, to avoid the double s sound. It’s correct, and s’s is correct too:
Charles’ friends are my friends. (= Charles’s friends are my friends)
I like Alicia Keys’ songs. (= I like Alicia Keys’s songs)
We can use ‘s without a noun after it: This isn’t my notebook. It’s my brother’s. (= my brother’s notebook).
We can use ‘s only with nouns, and we don’t use it with a long group of words: your classmate’s name BUT the name of the classmate sitting by the door.
Note that we say a woman’s hat (= a hat for a woman), a girl’s name (= a name for a girl), a bird’s egg (an egg which a bird laid), etc.
With a singular noun we use ‘s (e.g. my brother’s notebook). With plural nouns we put an apostrophe (‘) at the end of the word:
My sisters‘ room is clean.
The Carters‘ house is big.
The cats‘ food is here.
If a plural noun doesn’t end in -s, we use ‘s:
The men’s changing room is over there.
I need a children’s book.
Where can I buy women’s clothes?
We need to understand the people’s needs.
For more irregular nouns, check out “Singular & Plural, Countable & Uncountable Nouns.”
We can use ‘s after more than one noun: Jack and Karen’s wedding, Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s house.
For things, ideas, etc., we usually use of:
The temperature of the water is very cold. (= The water temperature is cold)
The name of the book is “War and Peace.” (= The book name is “War and Peace.”)
Remember these important phrases with of:
- the beginning/middle/end of (The beginning of the month is a hard time for me.)
- the top/bottom of (The answer key is at the bottom of the page.)
- the front/back/side of (The house is by the side of the field.)
We can usually use ‘s or of for an organization:
The government’s decision is important. (= The decision of the government is important)
The company’s success is considerable. (= The success of the company is considerable)
It is also possible to use ‘s for places:
The city’s streets are narrow. (= The streets of the city are narrow)
The world’s population is growing. (= The population of the world is growing)
We can also use ‘s with time words:
Tomorrow’s class will be interesting.
I will attend next week’s meeting.
Today’s class is great.
Yesterday’s newspaper is on the table.
Monday’s lecture is about grammar.
I want to watch this evening’s program.
We also use ‘s or -s’ (for plural words) with periods of time: a week’s holiday, ten minutes’ walk, three months’ journey, etc.
Double possessives (like a friend of mine) are also possible with ‘s: a friend of Mary’s (= one of Mary’s friends), a car of Jack’s (= one of Jack’s cars).
Do you have questions? Leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help. 😉
Materials used: “English Grammar in Use” by R.Murphy (4th edition)