What are possessives and how to use them?

What are possessives and how to use them?


In today’s free English lesson, our focus will be on possessives.

If you have problems with the use of possessives or you don’t even know what possessives are, this is the right lesson for you.

what are possessives and how to use them

I have noticed that the use of possessives can sometimes be difficult to those learning English because they do not differentiate between the two types of possessives, which are possessive determiners and possessive pronouns.

The difference between these two types of possessives is that possessive determiners come before a noun and always need to have a noun next to them, while possessive pronouns appear on their own, without a noun.

Keep reading and learn MORE TIPS TO IMPROVE your English Grammar.

 Click here for more lessons

How to form possessives?

English Grammar, possessives , possessives  explained


His is male, and her is female.

Jack’s father – his father

Jenny’s father – her father


Its refers to something not human or to a place or an organization.

the roof of the house – its roof

the country’s borders – its borders


Their is the plural of his, her, and its.

Jack and Jenny’s father – their father


His can be either a determiner or a pronoun.

Has Jack found his keys?

I’ve found my keys, but James hasn’t found his.


Its is a determiner but not a pronoun. Avoid using its without a following noun!

The city is famous for its architecture.


How to use possessives?


  • We use possessives to express a connection, often the fact that someone has something or that something belongs to someone.


  • The possessive form of a noun has the same meaning.


  • Possessive determiners are sometimes called ‘possessive adjectives’.


  • We leave out the noun when it is clear from the context what we mean. For example, when the noun has just been mentioned.


I’ll lend you my notebook. – Oh, I left mine at home.


**Note that we use a possessive pronoun instead of a possessive determiner + noun.**


Let’s go on to the use of possessives with parts of the body…


  • We normally use a possessive with people’s heads, arms, legs, etc. and their clothes, even if it is clear whose we mean.

What’s wrong? – I’ve hurt my ankle.


  • But we usually use the in this pattern where a person is the object.


The ball hit the instructor on the head.

Someone pushed me in the back.

Jack took Jenny by the arm.


  • We use the in the equivalent passive sentences.


The instructor was hit on the head.


There are also some special cases which you need to bear in mind when using possessives.

  • My friend means a definite person, the person I am friends with.


  • To talk about a person you are friends with, say one of my friends or a friend of mine.


Here are some examples of this of-structure:

I have just seen an old boyfriend of mine.

I don’t think my private life is any business of yours.


  • We can also use the possessive form of names and other nouns in the of-structure.


I met a friend of Jack’s.


  • You can use own after a possessive determiner.

I’d love to have my own car.

-My own means ‘belonging to me and not to anyone else’.

  • There is also a structure with of.

I’d love a car of my own.

  • Sometimes own expresses the idea of doing something yourself without help.

You’ll have to make your own bed. (=You’ll have to take your bed yourself.)


  • You can leave out the noun if the meaning is clear without it.

The ideas should be your own.


  • On your own and by yourself mean ‘alone’.

I don’t want to walk home on my own/by myself.


That’s it!

Now you know everything about possessives.

Remember the difference between determiners and pronouns and don’t mix them!


Good luck! :)

Speak better English, increase your confidence, achieve your goals by enrolling in Better Communication with Grammar!

You will learn how to use the most important grammar points, why they are important, and immediately start applying them to your English use.