Indicating Possession

English Possessive Form Has No Single Spanish Equivalent

red bed
La cama roja es mía. (The red bed is mine.). Photo by Prayitno; licensed via Creative Commons.

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 "'s" to indicate the possessive case — does not. So if you are going to indicate possession in Spanish, here are the ways you can do it:

Possessive determiners

Possessive determiners are a type of adjective, the equivalent of such English words as "my" and "your." Like other 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): Su casa es su mayor inversión. Your (his, her, their) house is your (his, her, their) major 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. (The forms of vuestro 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 somewhat 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. These forms are as follows:

  • mío, mía, míos, mías (my, mine)
  • tuyo, tuya, tuyos, tuyas (your, yours)
  • suyo, suya, suyos, suyas (my, mine)
  • nuestro, nuestra, nuestros, nuestras (our, ours)
  • vuestro, vuestra, vuestros, vuestras (your, yours; this plural familiar form is seldom used in Latin America)

When these forms are used as adjectives, they follow the noun being referred to. Whether used as pronouns or adjectives, they must match the noun being referred to (the thing being possessed) in number and gender.

Note that these forms are used far less commonly than the other forms listed above. Here are some examples of these words in use.

  • El coche mío consume mucha gasolina. My car consumes much gasoline.
  • La cama roja es mía. The red bed is mine.
  • Las computadoras no son mías, son tuyas. The computers aren't mine, they're yours.
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Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "Indicating Possession." ThoughtCo, May. 1, 2017, Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, May 1). Indicating Possession. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Indicating Possession." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 21, 2018).