Learning how to express possession in English can be tricky for language learners. From confusion over nouns ending in -s to homophones such as its/it's, your/you're, and their/they're/their, demonstrating ownership often leads to errors in spelling and usage. One way to clear up some of the confusion is to present possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns in a chart, side by side, and teach the different sentence positions. Your learners should make fewer mistakes with words such as your and yours with the following tips and chart!
Form & Meaning
Possessive adjectives and pronouns both show who an object belongs to.
Possessive adjectives are always followed by a noun.
- Do you want to borrow my pen?
- That's her jacket.
- His car is new.
- Their children are sleeping.
Possessive pronouns are never followed by a noun. Instead, they take the place of the noun. They function as the subject or object in a sentence, so they come either before or after a verb.
- That must be your book because this one is mine.
- We're happy that this house is finally ours.
- Yours is the one on the left.
- His presentation wasn't that great, but hers was.
Commonly Confused Words
Your / You're
Your is a possessive adjective that comes before a noun. You're means you are, which functions as the subject and verb/auxiliary verb of a sentence.
- Is that your dog?
- You're not listening to me.
Their / They're / There
Their is a possessive adjective that comes before a noun. They're means they are and is the subject and verb/auxiliary verb of a sentence. There has many functions. Two of the most common are an indefinite subject and location.
- Their bikes are locked in the garage.
- They're playing in the park.
- There is milk in the fridge. / It's over there.
Its / It's
Its is a possessive adjective that comes before a noun. It's means it is and is the subject and verb/auxiliary verb of a sentence.
- What's wrong with its paw?
- It's not what it looks like.
Note that the possessive adjective its does not have a possessive pronoun counterpart.
- The dog is eating from its bowl. (correct)
- That bowl is its. (incorrect)
For more practice with possessive adjective and pronouns, as well as subject and object pronouns, try the Pronouns 1 lesson in our Grammar Practice Worksheets section and the Possessive Adjectives & Pronouns lesson in our Fun Grammar Lessons section.