How and When to Use French Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns: The French version of mine, yours, its, ours, theirs

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Lawless, Laura K. "How and When to Use French Possessive Pronouns." ThoughtCo, Aug. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/french-possessive-pronouns-1368931. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, August 20). How and When to Use French Possessive Pronouns. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-possessive-pronouns-1368931 Lawless, Laura K. "How and When to Use French Possessive Pronouns." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-possessive-pronouns-1368931 (accessed September 26, 2017).
Which one is his?
Which one is his?. Hero Images/Getty Images

Possessive pronouns are the words that replace nouns modified by possessive adjectives. If you consider the phrase "his book," "his" is a possessive adjective modifying the noun "book." The pronoun that would replace this whole phrase is "his," as in: Which book do you want? I want his.

In French, possessive pronouns vary in form depending on the gender and number of the noun they replace. The gender and number of the possessive pronoun must agree with the gender and number of the noun possessed, not that of the possessor.

Gender and Number Agreement: the Owner is Irrelevant

In terms of agreeing in gender and number, the owner's gender and number are irrelevant.

So in the sentence, Il aime sa voiture ("He loves his car"), the possessive adjective sa agrees with what it modifies: the feminine, singular la voiture ("the car"). If we replace the possessive adjective and noun here with a possessive pronoun, that sentence would read: Il aime la sienne (again, agrees with the feminine, singular la voiture). But it has to be the third person pronoun to agree with the owner.

Person: the Owner is Everything

The person refers to the owner or possessor. In Il aime sa voiture and Il aime la sienne, we use the third person pronoun because person has to agree with the the owner or possessor, which is il. We don't care about the number and gender of the person, only the number and gender of the thing being possessed: la voiture.

 Think about the logic of this and you'll see it makes perfect sense.

These forms are spelled out in the table of possessive pronouns at the bottom of this page.

Possessive Pronoun: Agreement Plus the Definite Article

French and English possessive pronouns are very similar in usage. The big difference is the agreement issue; as we discussed, the French possessive pronoun must match the noun being replaced in number and gender and the appropriate definite article must be added.

  • Je vois ton frère, mais le mien n'est pas encore arrivé. > I see your brother, but mine hasn't arrived yet.
  • Je déteste ma voiture ; la tienne est beaucoup plus jolie. > I hate my car; yours is much prettier.
  • Mes parents sont en France. Où habitent les vôtres ? > My parents are in France. Where do yours live?
  • Cette tasse... c'est la tienne ou la mienne ? > This cup... is it yours or mine?​
  • À ta / votre santé ! > Cheers! / To your health!
    À la tienne / la vôtre ! > To yours!

Don't Forget Preposition-Article Contractions

When the possessive pronoun is preceded by the prepositions à or de, the preposition contracts with the definite article le, la, or les. The contractions are explained below in parentheses.

  • Tu parles à ton frère ; je vais parler au mien. (à + le = au)You talk to your brother; I'm going to talk to mine.
  • Ils sont fiers de leurs enfants et nous sommes fiers des nôtres. (de + les = des)They are proud of their kids and we are proud of ours.

French Possessive Pronouns, by Person, Gender, Number

 Singular   Plural
EnglishMasculine   Feminine   Masculine   Feminine
minele mienla mienneles miensles miennes
yours (tu form)le tienla tienneles tiensles tiennes
his, hers, itsle sienla sienneles siensles siennes
oursle nôtrela nôtreles nôtresles nôtres
yours (vous form) le vôtrela vôtreles vôtresles vôtres
theirsle leurla leurles leurs

les leurs

Possessive Adjectives

Note that the singular possessive adjectives have four forms each:

  1. Masculine singular: le mien, le tien, le sien
  2. Feminine singular: la mienne, la tienne, la sienne
  3. Masculine plural: les miens, les tiens, les siens
  4. Feminine plural: les miennes, les tiennes, les siennes

The plural possessive adjectives have three forms:

  1. Masculine singular: le nôtre, le vôtre, le leur
  2. Feminine singular: la nôtre, la vôtre, la leur
  3. Plural: les nôtres, les vôtres, les leurs

Additional Resources

French possession 
Tu versus vous 
Expression: À la vôtre