French Possession

Learn the different ways to express possession in French

French high school classroom
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There are four grammatical constructions used to express possession in French: adjectives, pronouns, and two different prepositions. Take a look at this summary of the different French possibilities, and then follow the links for detailed information.

Possessive de: The preposition de is used with a name or a noun in place of 's or s' in English.

le livre de Jean - John's book
la chambre des filles - the girls' room

Possessive à: The preposition à is used with the verb être in front of stressed pronouns in order to emphasize the ownership of the object.

Ce livre est à lui - This book is his
C'est un ami à moi - He's a friend of mine

Possessive adjectives
Possessive adjectives are the words used in place of articles to indicate to whom or to what something belongs. The English equivalents are my, your, his, her, its, our, and their.

Voici votre livre - Here's your book
C'est son livre - It's his book

Possessive pronouns
Possessive pronouns
are the words which replace a possessive adjective + noun. The English equivalents are mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs.

Ce livre... c'est le vôtre ou le sien ? - This book... is it yours or his?

French Possessive De

The French preposition de is used to express possession with names and nouns. It is equivalent to 's or s' in English.

le livre de Jean - John's book

les rues de Rome - Rome's streets, the streets of Rome

les idées d'un étudiant - a student's ideas

Note that the order of the nouns is inverted in French. "John's book" translates literally as "the book of John."

As with the partitive article and other de constructions, de contracts with le and les to make du and des:

c'est la voiture du patron - it's the boss's car

les pages du livre - the book's pages

les pages des livres - the books' pages

De cannot be used to express possession with stressed pronouns; for those, you need à.

The French Possessive à

The French preposition à is used to express possession in the following constructions: 

  1. noun + être + à + stressed pronounnoun, or name
  2. c'est + à + stressed pronoun, noun, or name
  3. c'est + noun + à + stressed pronoun*

These constructions put emphasis on the ownership of the object.

Cet argent est à Paul. - This money is Paul's.

Le livre est à lui. - The book is his.

C'est un livre à lui. - It's a book of his.

- À qui est ce stylo ? - Whose pen is this?
- C'est à moi. - It's mine.

- Cet argent... c'est à elle ou à nous ? - This money... is it hers or ours?
- C'est à vous. - It's yours.

- Ce chapeau est à Luc. - This is Luc's hat.
- Non, c'est à moi ! - No, it's mine!

*In spoken French, you might hear c'est + noun + à + name (e.g., c'est un livre à Michel), but it is grammatically incorrect. The correct way to use possession in this construction is with de (c'est un livre de Michel).

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Team, ThoughtCo. "French Possession." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). French Possession. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "French Possession." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).