General pronouns are a big part of the English language. There are further categories of pronouns that a speaker or writer might use, and this guide aims to give clear, concise instructions on how to use the possessive category of pronouns correctly. To that end, we have created this small sampling for teachers to use in lesson planning. This guide would be appropriate for both middle and high school students, and we want to keep the language smooth and easy to understand for the benefit of any ESL students in this age range, too.
The first rule to remember is how pronouns relate to nouns. This will help us tackle the topic of possessive pronouns and their uses in the rest of the article. Nouns are words that denote people, places, or things. Pronouns are any words that can replace a noun phrase or a singular noun. Basic pronouns will always reference the people or things about which a speaker is talking.
As you might guess from the name, a possessive pronoun shows some form of ownership. In almost all cases, examples of possessive pronouns will show how a person or other entity can claim ownership of a thing or idea. The two most frequent ways to use pronouns that take possession are by themselves or right before nouns. We can explore these ideas with examples of possessive pronouns in the next sections.
If a writer or speaker wanted to use a possessive pronoun before a noun, they might say or write something such as the red shirt is hers. In the previous possessive pronoun example here, we have a pronoun, her. This pronoun takes the place of the actual noun name of the lady in the sentence, but we don’t need to know the name to create the possessive form of the pronoun. We know about her, and we know the red shirt belongs to her, so we can create an accurate example using hers. As another example, the water bottle is his tells you who owns the water bottle.
Before we move on, it is important to establish that some examples of possessive pronouns that we can use in conjunction with nouns are the same if we use them alone. Both hers and his are examples of these kinds of pronouns in the possessive. However, most pronouns that fall into this category need to change slightly if we’re going to use them alone. We will check this out in the next section.
The pronouns in the possessive form that you can use alone include whose, theirs, ours, his, hers, mine, and yours. You will notice that his and hers still show up here. These are the two possessives that you can use by themselves or with a noun directly. If you do use any of the above pronouns alone, you will see that they can do any job that a regular noun can do. That is to say, they can become different parts of a sentence, including the direct object, object of a preposition, or the subject of the sentence. Let’s take a look at a few examples to illustrate this point.
We can write something like yours are the best ideas. This sentence structure can look and sound a bit strange, but it is still a working sentence with all of the mechanics for English as they need to be. In this example of possessive pronouns, yours acts as the subject of the sentence. Further, we can try they found our book, but our friend didn’t find theirs. In this case, the possessive pronoun theirs describes a friend, and it also shows that the friend did not locate a particular possession. We have moved the pronoun in the possessive to a place in the sentence structure that indicates it is a direct object. Additionally, the place is full, but they can stay at ours includes both a pronoun in its regular form and a possessive one. The possessive form ours is now a prepositional complement in this example.
We’ve gone through the basic ways to recognize and use possessives here, but they can change their functions, too. One way they do this is by being both interrogative and possessive at once. We normally use interrogatives to gather information, and we can combine them with possessives in order to form questions about unknown things or quantities.
For example, a person might see a stack of books on a table. They are surprised that the books are here, and they wonder whose books are these?. In this example, whose is a pronoun in the possessive that is also pulling duty as an interrogative pronoun. Someone has ownership of the books, but we do not know who owns them, and we are trying to find out the answer to this question.
Of course, pronouns that take the possessive form are just one type in the general category of pronouns. You now have a bit of knowledge of one other type in the form of interrogative pronouns. However, you can also find even more examples of different pronouns in English. These might include personal, demonstrative, indefinite, relative, reflexive, or intensive pronouns, just to name a few. In closing, remember that pronouns that take the possessive are all about ownership, and they can create a clear or ambiguous relationship between objects and owners.