Possessive adjective definition: Possessive adjectives are modifiers that demonstrate ownership of a noun.
What is a Possessive Adjective?
A possessive adjective is a modifier. Possessive adjectives modify nouns, and the way they modify nouns is by showing ownership over them.
Possessive Adjective Examples:
- This is my coffee.
- This is your drink.
The possessive adjectives here are modifying the nouns coffee and drink by showing ownership of them.
Possessive Adjectives List:
- your (singular, plural)
Possessive adjectives look similar to possessive pronouns in form, but they cannot stand alone in a sentence.
Example of adjective possessive pronoun in use:
- He is borrowing the family’s car.
- He is borrowing our car.
The possessive adjective “our” replaces the noun “the family’s” to show ownership of the car. As you can see, the possessive adjective “our” would not be able to stand alone in the sentence without causing confusing.
- He is borrowing our.
This sentence does not make any sense.
Possessive Adjective vs. Possessive Pronoun
Possessive pronouns show ownership of a person, place, or thing. Because they are pronouns, a noun, also called an antecedent, must be used before a possessive pronoun is used. Possessive pronouns replace nouns.
Possessive pronouns may be in the absolute or adjective form. Regardless, they replace nouns when they are used.
Possessive Pronouns List:
- yours (singular, plural)
- yours (plural)
Example of possessive pronoun in use:
- What car is he borrowing? He is borrowing the family’s
- What car is he borrowing? He is borrowing ours.
The possessive pronoun “ours” replaces “the family’s” to show ownership of the car. Unlike the possessive adjective “our,” the possessive pronoun “ours” can stand alone all by itself in the sentence and still make sense.
This is the how you can tell the difference between a possessive adjective and a possessive pronoun. Can it stand all by itself?
- He is borrowing our. INCORRECT
- He is borrowing ours. CORRECT
Notice how some of the possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns are the same words: “his” and “its” for example. This can cause some confusion.
The difference is that a possessive adjective will come before a noun to modify it. A possessive pronoun will replace a noun entirely.
Important Point to Remember
Possessive adjectives do not have apostrophes. The possession is embedded in the word. By their nature, possessive pronouns demonstrate possession and do not need further punctuation to show that possession.
Contractions are something entirely different. Contractions (although they may look like possessive adjectives) are actually two words joined with an apostrophe.
Examples with sentences will demonstrate this difference.
It’s—Meaning: it is
- The car had its engine running for thirty minutes before the battery died.
- “its” is used as a possessive adjective to modify “engine”
- It’s going to be a hot day.
- “It’s” joins “it” and “is” as a subject and a verb
- It’s a luxury for those who want some freedom from their smartphones. That much we’ve learned in the past two years. –The Wall Street Journal
- “It’s” is a contraction for “it is.”
You’re—Meaning: you are
- You played your game well.
- “your” is used as a possessive adjective to modify “game”
- You’re an excellent athlete.
- “You’re” joins “you” and “are” as a subject and a verb
- If you’re planning on going, here’s a preview. –The Washington Post
- “You’re” is a contraction for “you are.”
They’re—Meaning: they are
- They ate their dinner at the park.
- “their” is used as a possessive adjective to modify “dinner”
- They’re going to eat dinner at the park.
- “They’re” joins “they” and “are” as a subject and a verb
Who’s—Meaning: who is
- This is whose seat?
- “whose” is used as a possessive adjective to modify “seat”
- Who’s sitting here?
- “Who’s” joins “who” and “is” as a subject and a verb
Exercises with Possessive Adjective
Determine if the following sentences use possessive adjectives or possessive pronouns.
- I purchased a meal from your restaurant.
- He waited for his shoes to be repaired.
- Sara wanted a bite of mine.
- She should have ordered it.
- We loved their new house.
See answers below.
Summary: What are Possessive Adjectives?
Define possessive adjective: the definition of possessive adjective is an adjective that denotes ownership or possession and modifies a noun or noun phrase.
To sum up, a possessive adjective:
- is a modifier
- describes nouns
- shows possession
- does not require an apostrophe