Indicating Possession in Spanish

English use of apostrophe with 's' has no direct Spanish equivalent

possession of ball
¡El balón es míó! (The ball is mine!). Peter Muller/Getty Images

Many of the structural details of the English language — the parts of speech, punctuation, and even the addition of "s" or "es" to make words plural — have correlating structures in Spanish. But one common structure — the addition of an apostrophe followed by an "s" — to indicate possession does not. So if you are going to indicate possession, whether literal or abstract, in Spanish, here are three ways you can do it:

Possessive Determiners

Possessive determiners are often classified as a type of adjective, the equivalent of such English words as "my" and "your." Like other Spanish adjectives, they need to match the noun they refer to in number and gender. Here are the possessive determiners of Spanish along with a sample sentence for each:

  • Mi, mis (my, mine): Mi gato es muy peludo. (My cat is very hairy.)
  • Tu, tus (your): ¡Tus hijas y yo te necesitamos! (Your daughters and I need you!)
  • Su, sus (your, his, her, their, one's): Su casa es su mayor inversión. (Your house is your biggest investment.)
  • Nuestro, nuestra, nuestros, nuestras (our): ¿Hay limpieza étnica en nuestro país? (Is there ethnic cleansing in our country?)
  • Vuestro, vuestra, vuestros, vuestras (your): Me interesaría saber más sobre vuestro perro. (I would be interested to know more about your dog. Vuestro and its forms are seldom used in most of Latin America.)

Using De

If you are using a name or noun to refer to the person or entity that is in possession, the prepositional phrase of de followed by the noun is used, as in el libro de Juan, John's book. A few examples:

  • Ver el perfil de Pablo. (See Pablo's profile.)
  • Él no cree en el movimiento de mujeres. (He doesn't believe in the women's movement.)
  • Es la madre de la estudiante. (She is the student's mother.)

It similarly is possible to indicate possession by using de followed by a pronoun, such as in de él, but such usage is uncommon except when the use of a determiner would be ambiguous in the context. For example, if su libro ("his, her, your or their book") would be ambiguous, we could say el libro de él or el libro de ella ("his book" or "her book").

Possessive Pronouns and Long-Form adjectives

Less common are the long form of possessive adjectives, which may be used as pronouns. They also may be used as adjectives following the noun. As with the determiners, possessive pronouns and adjectives much the possessed items or persons in number and gender. These forms are as follows:

  • mío, mía, míos, mías (my, mine). El coche mío consume mucha gasolina. (My car consumes much gasoline.
  • tuyo, tuya, tuyos, tuyas (your, yours). La cama roja es tuya. (The red bed is yours.)
  • suyo, suya, suyos, suyas (my, mine). Las computadoras eran suyas. (The computers were hers.) 
  • nuestro, nuestra, nuestros, nuestras (our, ours). Los perros nuestros son muy diferentes. (Ours are very different.)
  • vuestro, vuestra, vuestros, vuestras (your, yours; this plural familiar form is seldom used in Latin America). El regalo es vuestro. (The gift is yours.)

Sample Sentences Showing Possession

La casa mía estaba toda quemada. Lo perdí absolutamente todo. (My house was completely burnt. I lost absolutely everything.

Mis pensamientos son los que me hacen sentir feliz o desgraciado. (My thoughts are what make me feel happy happy or miserable.

Los retos de la vida son parte del viaje. (Life's challenges are part of the journey.)

La esposa del actor rompió el silencio sobre los escándalos. (The actor's wife broke her silence about the scandals.)

la complejidad del ojo humano es increíble. (The human eye's complexity is unbelievable.)

En la creación de su imagen profesional, su actitud puede contribuir de forma positiva o negativa. (In the creation of your professional image, your attitude can contribute in a positive or negative way.)

Su reputación puede sufrir ataques desde cualquier rincón del mundo. (One's reputation can come under attack from any corner of the world.)

¿Cuáles son las diferencias tuyas con las otras candidatas? (What are your differences from the other candidates?)

Ya se han muerto todas las esperanzas mías. (All my hopes have died.)

Era la ocasión perfecta para explicar mis creencias. (It was the perfect time for explaining my beliefs.)

Durante aquellos primeros años, la inteligencia de Einstein comenzó a manifestarse. (In those early years, Einstein's intelligence began to show.)