Possessive Adjective

Definition: Possessive determiners (also called possessive adjectives or possessive pronouns; analogous to English "my," "his," etc.) are the words used in place of articles to indicate to whom or to what something belongs. Their usage is similar to English, but there are some differences in form.

The following table shows the forms of French possessives:

ENGLISH MASCULINE FEMININE BEFORE VOWEL PLURAL
My mon ma mon mes
your (singular) ton ta ton tes
his, her, its son sa son ses
our notre notre notre nos
your (plural) votre votre votre vos
their leur leur leur leurs

French has many more possessives than English. For singular subjects (I, you, he/she/it), there are three forms of the possessive. The gender, number, and first letter of the noun possessed determine which form to use.

Examples in French:

MY YOUR HIS, HER, ITS
masc: pen mon stylo ton stylo son stylo
fem: watch ma montre   ta montre sa montre
vowel: friend mon amie ton amie son amie
plural: brothers  mes frères tes frères ses frères

An important difference between French and English is that in French it is the gender of the noun that determines which form to use, not the gender of the subject. This is particularly difficult when talking about him/her/it. Son, sa, and ses can each mean his, her, or its depending on the context.

Plural subjects:

(we, you, they) have only two forms: singular and plural.

 

ENGLISH

OUR

YOUR

THEIR

MASCULINE

pen

notre stylo

votre stylo

leur stylo

FEMININE

watch

notre montre  

votre montre   

leur montre

PLURAL

friends

nos amis

vos amis

leurs amis


Note: the possessive adjective is almost never used with body parts in French. You can't say 'my hand' or 'my hair.' Instead, the French use pronominal verbs to show possession with body parts:

Examples in French:
Je me suis cassé la jambe
I broke my leg (literally, I broke the leg of myself).

Il se lave les cheveux
He's washing his hair (literally, He washes the hair of himself).



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