Possessive Pronoun - Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

An Irish toast
Possessive pronouns in an Irish toast: "Here's to you and yours and to mine and ours!".

Dave G. Kelly / Getty Images

A possessive pronoun is a pronoun that can take the place of a noun phrase to show ownership (as in "This phone is mine").

The weak possessives (also called possessive determiners) function as determiners in front of nouns (as in "My phone is broken"). The weak possessives are my, your, his, her, its, our, and their.

In contrast, the strong (or absolute) possessive pronouns stand on their own: mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs. The strong possessive is a type of independent genitive.

A possessive pronoun never takes an apostrophe.

Examples and Observations

  • "We were both work-study kids with University jobs. Hers was in the library; mine was in the Commons cafeteria."​
    (Stephen King, Joyland. Titan Books, 2013)
  • "Go on, get inside the TARDIS. Oh, never given you a key? Keep that. Go on, that’s yours. Quite a big moment really!"
    (The Doctor to Donna in "The Poison Sky." Doctor Who, 2005)
  • "Ours is an age of relentless testing, corrupted by cooked or deceitful results and widespread cheating scandals."
    (Joseph Featherstone, "Tested." The Nation, February 17, 2014)
  • "'Mine is a long and sad tale!' said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.
    "'It is a long tail, certainly,' said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse's tail; 'but why do you call it sad?'"
    (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)
  • "She underlines passages in my Bible because she can't find hers."
    (Ned in "The War of the Simpsons." The Simpsons, 1991)
  • "Woman must have her freedom—the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she shall be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man's attitude may be, that problem is hers—and before it can be his, it is hers alone."
    (Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race, 1920)
  • "It's really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs."
    (J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1951)
  • "Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained."
    (William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-1793)

Possessive Pronouns vs. Possessive Determiners

"The possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his, etc.) are like possessive determiners, except that they constitute a whole noun phrase.

  1. The house will be hers you see when they are properly divorced.
  2. Writers have produced extraordinary work in conditions more oppressive than mine.

Possessive pronouns are typically used when the head noun can be found in the preceding context; thus in 1, hers means 'her house,' and in 2, mine means ' my conditions.' Here the possessive pronoun is parallel to the elliptic use of the genitive." (D. Biber, S. Conrad, and G. Leech, Longman Student Grammar of Student and Written English. Pearson, 2002)

"[The] construction with the possessive pronoun [e.g. a friend of mine] differs from the alternative of possessive determiner + noun (e.g. my friend) mainly in that it is more indefinite. The sentences in (30) below illustrates this point.

(30) a. You know John? A friend of his told me that the food served at that restaurant is awful.
(30) b. You know John? His friend told me that the food served at that restaurant is awful.

The construction with the possessive pronoun, in (30a), can be used if the speaker hasn't specified and doesn't need to specify the identity of the friend. In contrast, the construction with the possessive determiner, in (30b), implies that the speaker and listener both know what friend is intended."
(Ron Cowan, The Teacher's Grammar of English: A Course Book and Reference Guide. Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Punctuation With Possessive Pronouns

"The words hers, ours, theirs, and yours are sometimes termed 'absolute' or 'independent' possessives because they occur when no noun follows. No apostrophe appears in these words, which are often in the predicate [the house was ours] [the fault was theirs]. Sometimes, though, they can occur as subjects [hers was a gift that anyone would envy]." (Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage. Oxford University Press, 2009)

The Lighter Side of Possessive Pronouns: An Irish Toast

"Here's to you and yours and to mine and ours,
And if mine and ours ever come across you and yours,
I hope you and yours will do as much for mine and ours
As mine and ours have done for you and yours!"

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Possessive Pronoun - Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/possessive-pronoun-1691649. Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). Possessive Pronoun - Definition and Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/possessive-pronoun-1691649 Nordquist, Richard. "Possessive Pronoun - Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/possessive-pronoun-1691649 (accessed June 7, 2023).