Possessive Determiners

Introduction to Possessive Determiners

In English grammar, a possessive determiner is an adjective that modifies a noun by attributing possession (or other sorts of relationship) to someone or something. They are used to express personal relationships and ownership. We will discuss what they are, their forms, when and how to use them, and some common mistakes to avoid.

What are Possessive Determiners?

Possessive Determiners (also known as possessive adjectives) are words that indicate ownership or possession. They are placed before a noun to show who or what owns or possesses something. Standard English possessive determiners include my, your, his, her, its, our, their.

Some examples of possessive determiners are:

  • My cat is sleeping.
  • Can you find your book?
  • Their house is on that street.

Types of Possessive Determiners

In English, there are seven possessive determiners. These depend on the gender, number, and person of the possessor. They are:

  • My – Belonging to me
  • Your – Belonging to you (singular)
  • His – Belonging to him
  • Her – Belonging to her
  • Its – Belonging to it
  • Our – Belonging to us
  • Their – Belonging to them


  • Mine: This is my car.
  • Yours: Is this your pen?
  • His: I saw his father yesterday.
  • Hers: The choice is hers.
  • Ours: We have made our decision.
  • Theirs: Theirs is a lovely family.
  • Its: The dog wagged its tail.

Usage of Possessive Determiners

Possessive Determiners are always followed by a noun. They modify the noun to show a form of possession. To put it simply, they tell us whom or what the noun belongs to. They are similar to possessive pronouns, but unlike pronouns, they cannot stand alone.


  • Whose pen is this? It’s my pen.
  • The lesson has greatly enriched our knowledge.

Rules for Using Possessive Determiners

Here are some basic rules to follow when using possessive determiners:

1. A possessive determiner is always followed by a noun.
2. Possessive determiners are not followed by apostrophes.
3. They cannot stand alone. They must be followed by the noun they modify.


  • My’s car is blue.
  • Hers is over there.


  • My car is blue.
  • Her car is over there.

4. Possessive determiners agree in number and gender with the possessor, not with the thing that is possessed.
5. 'Its' is the possessive determiner and 'it's' is a contraction of 'it is'. This is a very common source of confusion.
6. 'Their' is used for singular possessive of indefinite words like 'someone', 'anyone', 'everyone'.


  • Everyone brought their own lunch.
  • Does everyone have their ticket?

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Possessive determiners and possessive pronouns are often confused, but they have different uses. Furthermore, many people inadvertently use apostrophes with possessive determiners, which is incorrect.


Incorrect: Your's truly
Correct: Yours truly

Incorrect: The decision is your's.
Correct: The decision is yours.

Additionally, the use of "their" as a singular possessive form can lead to some debate, but it is widely accepted especially when the gender of the person referred to is unknown.


Correct: Someone left their umbrella here.
This usage avoids the awkward 'his or her' construct.


In conclusion, possessive determiners are integral elements of English grammar that indicate possession. They allow us to express personal relationships and establish ownership. Mastering their correct usage can help in enhancing the quality of your communication in English. Remember, these possessive determiners must always be followed by a noun and they should agree in gender and number with the noun they modify.

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