How to Form French Possessive Adjectives

French Possessives Come In Many More Forms Than Their English Counterparts

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Possessive adjectives are the words used in place of articles to indicate to whom or to what something belongs. French possessive adjectives are used in similar ways to English possessive adjectives, but there are some differences in form.

Using French Possessive Adjectives

French grammar touts many more possessives than English because there are different forms, not only for the person and number but sometimes also for the gender and the first letter of that which is possessed.

All of the different forms are summarized in the table below and are explained in detail later in this lesson.

When describing two or more nouns in French, a possessive adjective must be used in front of each one.

  • Son frère et sa sœur.
  • His brother and sister.
  • Ma tante et mon oncle.
  • My aunt and uncle.

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.

  • 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's washing the hair of himself").
  Singular     Plural
English Masculine Feminine Before Vowel  
my mon ma mon mes
your (tu form) ton ta ton tes
his, her, its son sa son ses
our notre notre notre nos
your (vous form) votre votre votre vos
their leur leur leur leurs

Singular Possessive French Adjectives

In French grammar, there are three forms of the possessive for each singular person (I, you, he/she/it). The gender, number, and first letter of the noun possessed determine which form to use.

My

  • mon (masculine singular), mon stylo (my pen)
  • ma (feminine singular), ma montre (my watch)
  • mes (plural), mes livres (my books)

When a feminine noun begins with a vowel, the masculine possessive adjective is used to avoid saying ma amie, which would break the flow of speech. In this case, the possessive's final consonant is pronounced (the "n" in the example below) to achieve fluid pronunciation.

  • mon amie
  • my (female) friend

Your (tu form)

  • ton (masculine singular), ton stylo (your pen)
  • ta (feminine singular), ta montre (your watch)
  • tes (plural), tes livres (your books)

When a feminine noun begins with a vowel, the masculine possessive adjective is used:

  • ton amie
  • your (female) friend

His, Her, Its

  • son (masculine singular), son stylo (his, her, its pen)
  • sa (feminine singular), sa montre (his, her, its watch)
  • ses (plural), ses livres (his, her, its books)

When a feminine noun begins with a vowel, the masculine possessive adjective is used:

  • son amie
  • his, her, its (female) friend

An important difference between French and English is that French utilizes the gender of the noun to determine which form to use, not the gender of the subject.

A man would say mon livre when talking about a book, and a woman would also say mon livre. The book is masculine, and therefore so is the possessive adjective, no matter to whom the book belongs. Likewise, both men and women would say ma maison, because "house" is feminine in French. It doesn't matter whether the owner of the house is male or female.

This difference between English and French possessive adjectives can be particularly confusing when using him, her, or it. Sonsa, and ses can each mean his, her, or its, depending on the context. For example, son lit can mean "his bed," "her bed," or "its bed" (for example, the dog's). If you need to stress the gender of the person the item belongs to, you can use à lui ("belonging to him") or à elle ("belonging to her").

  • C'est son livre, à elle. 
  • It's her book.
  • Voici sa monnaie, à lui.
  • Here's his change.

Plural Possessive French Adjectives

For plural subjects (we, you, and they), French possessive adjectives are far simpler. There are only two forms for each grammatical person: singular and plural.

Our

  • notre (singular), notre stylo (our pen)
  • nos (plural), nos montres (our watches)

Your (vous form)

  • votre (singular), votre stylo (your pen)
  • vos (plural), vos montres (your watches)

Their

  • leur (singular), leur stylo (their pen)
  • leurs (plural), leurs montres (their watches)