Do you know how to use possessive nouns and pronouns in natural English conversation? This grammar can be confusing for my ESL students here in Japan, and I found the best way to explain it is with clear definitions, comparisons, and natural example sentences. It’s all here for you in this blog post.
Possessive nouns show ownership or connection.
Joe’s bike. (Joe owns the bike.)
Chris’ cousin Joe. (Chris is related to Joe. They’re connected.)
We make possessive nouns by adding an apostrophe (‘) S to the noun. JOE’S
Plural nouns and other nouns ending in S only add an apostrophe. CHRIS’
Keep reading and you will find helpful charts, images, and a video. PLUS a free PDF guide to help you review this grammar anywhere.
Table of Contents
- What are possessive nouns?
- When to use possessive pronouns
- Possessive noun example sentences
- Possessive pronoun example sentences
- Confusing Contractions ITS vs. IT’S
- FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
- Printable Possessive Nouns PDF E-guide
What are possessive nouns?
Possessive nouns are used to show ownership or connection between things or people.
① They show ownership or possession of something.
“This is Benjamin’s jacket. He left it at my house on Saturday.”
*The jacket belongs to Benjamin. He is the owner of the jacket.
“The cat’s toys are all over the living room.”
*The toys belong to the cat.
“The boss’ office.”
*The office belongs to my boss.
② They show a connection between things or people.
“I saw Benjamin’s brother this morning at the coffee shop beside my school.”
*The person I saw at the coffee shop is connected to Benjamin, he is his brother.
“Lucas’ boss is always in a bad mood on Monday.”
*The boss is connected to Lucas, it is the person he works for.
“The bicycle’s tire is flat. It needs air.”
*The tire is connected to the bicycle. It is part of the bicycle.
The adjective possessive and the noun possession both come from the verb possess.
POSSESS means to have or own something
How to make Possessive Nouns
Possessive nouns are formed by adding an apostrophe (‘) and the letter “s” to the noun –
“This is Benjamin’s jacket.”
For nouns ending in S we only need to add an apostrophe (‘) –
NAMES: “Dennis’ cousin came to the party.”
TITLES: “I don’t like the boss’ working style.”
If the noun is plural and ends in an “s,” follow the same rule.
“The students‘ second-semester textbooks have just arrived.”
*NOTE – If a plural noun doesn’t end in S we need to add ‘S’ to make it possessive.
The children’s clothes are hanging on the clothesline.
Find more detailed information on Singular and Plural Nouns and my blog post here >>> Singular and Plural nouns – 50 examples (worksheet PDF)
Is the Possessive form of Chris – Chris’ or Chris’s?
Actually, both are okay. From my research, it seems that adding an apostrophe (‘) S to proper names that end in S is common in the U.K. (Chris’s)
I’m Canadian, but I understand why they write it this way. I was taught to write Chris’, but when I say the word it makes an extra sound. *It’s not even an S sound! It sounds like CHRIS-IZ. (The extra ‘S makes an IZ sound)
“Chris’ [CHRIS-IZ] cousin came to the party.”
The apostrophe S (‘s) used in the U.K. represents that extra sound. Follow the spelling set by your teacher but remember that both spellings sound the same.
“Chris’s [CHRIS-IZ] cousin came to the party.”
Another hint that both spellings are acceptable came from my spelling and grammar assistant Grammarly. It accepts both spellings. I use Grammarly to help me catch spelling errors and grammar mistakes. It saves me a lot of time! It can help your English writing too. Get Grammarly for free.
If you have listened to much English you will hear this Z sound is used a lot. English words that end in ES make an IZ sound.
Benches – BENCH-IZ
Peaches – PEACH-IZ
Watches – WATCH-IZ
When to use possessive pronouns
Possessive pronouns are “mine”, “yours”, “his”, “hers”, “ours”, “theirs”, and “its.”
*Technically ITS is a possessive adjective, not a possessive pronoun. This means that we cannot use ITS alone, it must be used with a noun. (More on possessive adjectives in the MY and MINE section.)
Possessive pronouns do not require an apostrophe; they replace possessive nouns to avoid repetition.
For example, it’s natural to say “I’ll bring my sleeping bag and you bring yours.”
The sentence “I’ll bring my sleeping bag and you bring your sleeping bag.” is fine but we avoid repetition as much as possible in English conversation. (I bet your native language does the same thing!)
Yours is a replacement for your sleeping bag.
Possessive pronouns do not need an apostrophe
|Mine (Shows something belongs to the speaker)|
|Yours (Shows something belongs to the listener)|
|His (Shows something belongs to a male)|
|Hers (Shows something belongs to a female)|
|Its (Shows something belongs to an animal or thing)|
|Ours (Shows something belongs to a group including the speaker)|
|Theirs (Shows something belongs to a group not including the speaker)|
Your complete guide to Reflexive Pronouns is here >>> Reflexive Pronouns – 16 examples (Free PDF download + Video)
Possessive noun example sentences
- The boss’s office was on the top floor.
- I found Erin’s purse on the counter.
- This watch used to be my grandfather’s. He gave it to my dad.
- The teacher’s desk was cluttered with papers.
- This is Lily. She is John’s sister’s friend.
- The car’s engine was making a strange noise.
- Kailey’s hat was on the hook.
- The president’s speech was over 90 minutes long.
- The school’s dress code is very strict.
- The children’s toys were in the playroom.
- The karate master’s dying wish was that his son continues running his school.
- The movie’s marketing budget was over 5 million dollars.
- The book is a collection of photos of the area’s most beautiful beaches.
- These are Patrick’s shoes, I think he needs a new pair.
Possessive pronoun example sentences
- You can write in any notebook from the top shelf, but not the red one. That notebook is mine.
- Can I borrow your pen? Mine is out of ink.
- The new uniforms came today. Yours is hanging up in the change room.
- My pen ran out of ink, can I borrow yours?
- Someone tell Christopher to pull up his pants, his underwear is showing.
- Juan is very proud of his new car. Have you seen it yet?
- People think I look like Rebecca but my hair is brown and hers is blond.
- Isabella brought three coffees from Starbucks. One is for Mark, one is for Eric and the last one is hers.
- My dog is always chasing its tail.
- If you turn the sofa on its side it will fit through the door.
- If you drive down Main Street you’ll see many new houses, ours is on the corner with a green tile roof.
- The future is not ours to see.
- Adopting a puppy from a shelter will warm your hearts and theirs.
- A couple posted pictures on Facebook of their new home but, the fancy home shown in the photos was not theirs.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. = You should not judge the worth or value of something only by how it looks. There might be more value inside that you can’t yet see.
*This idiom is used in several ways with different negative words. DON’T, YOU SHOULDN’T, NEVER Etc. These words all express that judging a book by its cover is something that is not good.
Confusing Contractions ITS vs. IT’S
*Its is a possessive pronoun that DOESN’T use an apostrophe. Remember that no possessive pronouns use an apostrophe.
*It’s is the contraction of IT IS. Compare these sentences:
Its – possessive
“The dog lost its ball.” (Its is a possessive pronoun connecting the ball to the dog. The ball belongs to the dog. No apostrophe.)
It’s – contraction
“It’s raining.” (It’s is a contraction of IT IS that is explaining the current weather conditions. There is an apostrophe before the S.)
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What are the 7 possessive nouns?
Possessive pronouns are “mine”, “yours”, “his”, “hers”, “ours”, “theirs”, and “its.”
What’s the difference between MY and MINE?
MY and MINE are both possessives. The difference is that MY is a possessive adjective (also called a determiner) and MINE is a possessive pronoun.
A pronoun can be used by itself to replace a noun.
An adjective cannot be used by itself to replace a noun. The possessive adjective MY must be used with a noun.
Please look at the following examples:
Whose keys are these?
- They’re mine. (Ok) MINE can be used by itself.
- They’re my keys. (Ok) MY needs to be followed by the noun keys.
They’re my. (Incorrect) MY cannot be used by itself.
The possessive pronoun HIS can also be used as a possessive adjective.
- They’re his. (Ok.)
- They’re his keys. (Ok.)
HERS, OURS, and THEIRS are only pronouns. They CANNOT be used as possessive adjectives.
- They’re hers.
- They’re ours.
- They’re theirs.
The possessive adjective ITS also must be used with a noun.
What is the dog looking for?
The dog is looking for its ball. (The ball that belongs to the dog.)
Which possessive adjectives should I use for animals? Its – His – Her?
If an animal’s gender is unknown to us, the possessive pronoun its is natural.
- I saw a raccoon in the park this morning. It was walking funny, I think it hurt its leg.
(I don’t know if the raccoon is a male or female.)
- There is a stray cat in my neighborhood. Its tail is missing.
(I don’t know if the stray cat is a male or female.)
We often use gender-specific pronouns for animals that we know well, like our pets or famous characters.
- My dog played with my soccer ball this morning and now she thinks it’s hers.
- My sister carries her Snoopy school bag everywhere. She thinks his nose is cute.
Learn lots of common examples where prepositions are used with nouns. Nouns + Prepositions – 75 Examples + Video (Intermediate)
Printable Possessive Nouns PDF E-guide
Download your printable PDF E-guide below. (It’s FREE!) PDFs contain the live links from the post.↓
Take a look at these other HELPFUL English Grammar posts.
- What Are Possessive Nouns? (43 Examples, Video, PDF Guide)
- 3 Adverbs of Probability – Definitely, Probably, and Maybe
- Past tense of READ and Past Participle of READ (Audio, Quiz, and PDF)
- Third-Person Singular – Your best Guide (Free 24-page eBook)
- Singular and Plural nouns – 50 examples (worksheet PDF)