Spanish Possessive Adjectives (Long Form)

Spanish for Beginners

Young businessman holding a lot of books
Los libros suyos. (The books of his.). sot / Getty Images

Possessive adjectives in Spanish, like those of English, are a way of indicating who owns or is in possession of something. Their use is straightforward, although they, like other adjectives, must match the nouns they modify in both number (singular or plural) and gender.

Using the Long Form

Unlike English, Spanish has two forms of possessive adjectives, a short form that is used before nouns, and a long form that is used after nouns. Here we focus on the long-form possessive adjectives with examples of usage and possible translations of each example:

  • mío, mía, míos, mías — my, of mine — Son libros míos. (They are my books. They are books of mine.)
  • tuyo, tuya, tuyos, tuyas — your (singular familiar), of yours — Prefiero la casa tuya. (I prefer your house. I prefer the house of yours.) These forms are used even in areas where vos is common, such as Argentina and parts of Central America.
  • suyo, suya, suyos, suyas — your (singular or plural formal), its, his, her, their, of yours, of his, of hers, of theirs — Voy a la oficina suya. (I am going to his/her/your/their office. I am going to the office of his/hers/yours/theirs.)
  • nuestro, nuestra, nuestros, nuestras — our, of ours — Es un coche nuestro. (It is our car. It is a car of ours.)
  • vuestro, vuestra, vuestros, vuestras — your (plural familiar), of yours — ¿Dónde están los hijos vuestros? (Where are your children? Where are the children of yours?)

As you may have noticed, the short form and long forms of nuestro and vuestro and related pronouns are identical. They differ only as to whether they are used before or after the noun.

Owner Irrelevant in Determining Gender

In terms of number and gender, changed forms are with the nouns they modify, not with the person(s) who own or possess the object. Thus, a masculine object uses a masculine modifier regardless of whether it is owned by a male or female.

  • Es un amigo tuyo. (He is a friend of yours.)
  • Es una amiga tuya. (She is a friend of yours.)
  • Son unos amigos tuyos. (They are some friends of yours.)
  • Son unas amigas tuyas. (They are some friends of yours.)

If you've already studied possessive pronouns, you may have noticed that they are identical with the possessive adjectives listed above. In fact, some grammarians consider the possessive adjectives to be a type of pronoun.

Regional Variations in Use of Possessive Adjectives

Suyo and the related forms (such as suyas) tend to be used in opposite ways in Spain and Latin America:

  • In Spain, unless the context is clear otherwise, speakers tend to assume that suyo refers to possession by someone other than the person spoken to — in other words, suyo tends to function as a third-person adjective. If you need to refer to something possessed by the person spoken to, you can use de usted or de ustedes.
  • In Latin America, on the other hand, speakers assume that suyo refers to something possessed by the person spoken to. If you need to refer to something possessed by a third party, you can use de él (of his), de ella (of hers), or de ellos/ellas (of theirs).

Also, in Latin America nuestro (and related forms such as nuestras) coming after a noun is uncommon for saying "of ours." It is more common to use de nosotros or de nosotras.

Long or Short Possessive Adjectives?

Generally, there is no significant difference in meaning between the long and short forms possessive adjectives. Most often, you'd use the long form as the equivalent of "of mine," "of yours," etc., in English. The short form is more common, and in some cases, the long form can be somewhat awkward or have a slight literary flavor.

One use of the long form is in short questions: ¿Es tuyo? (Is it yours?) In these simple questions, the form of the possessive depends on the gender of the unstated noun. For example, "¿Es tuyo?" could mean "Is it your car?" because coche (the word for car) is masculine, while "¿Son tuyas?" might mean "Are they your flowers?" because flor (the word for flower) is feminine.

Key Takeaways

  • Spanish has two types of possessive adjectives: short-form possessives, which go before the noun they refer to, and long-form possessives, which go afterward.
  • There is no difference in meaning between the two forms of possessives, although the short term is used more often.
  • Suyo is often understood differently in Spain than it is in Latin America.
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Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "Spanish Possessive Adjectives (Long Form)." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Erichsen, Gerald. (2023, April 5). Spanish Possessive Adjectives (Long Form). Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Spanish Possessive Adjectives (Long Form)." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).