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Possessive Pronouns in English Grammar

Pronouns are small words that can take the place of other grammatical forms such as nouns and noun phrases. Possessive pronouns express possession of or some other relationship to another word or phrase and can perform five grammatical functions: subject, subject complement, direct object, indirect object, and prepositional complement. Pronouns from three categories of pronouns in the English language can function as possessive pronouns.

Personal Pronouns as Possessive Pronouns

Personal pronouns may function as possessive pronouns. Personal pronouns are pronouns that take the place of common and proper nouns with known antecedents. The possessive personal pronouns in English are:

  • mine (first person singular)
  • yours (second person singular)
  • his (third person singular masculine)
  • hers (third person singular feminine)
  • its (third person singular neuter)
  • ours (first person plural)
  • yours (second person plural)
  • theirs (third person plural)

The English possessive personal pronouns perform five functions: subject, subject complement, direct object, indirect object, and prepositional complement. For example:

  • Mine is the calico cat. (subject)
  • The middle desk is yours. (subject complement)
  • Our neighbor bought his. (direct object)
  • We bought ours healthy snacks. (indirect object)
  • He can sit at theirs. (prepositional complement)

Do not confuse possessive pronouns with possessive determiners. The possessive determiners in English are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose. Possessive determiners are determiners. Determiners provide information such as familiarity, location, quantity, and number. Determiners perform the grammatical function of determinative.

Interrogative Pronouns as Possessive Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns may function as possessive pronouns. Interrogative pronouns are most often used in questions to gather more information about an unknown antecedent. The possessive interrogative pronouns in English are:

  • whose
  • whosever

The English possessive interrogative pronouns perform five functions: subject, subject complement, direct object, indirect object, and prepositional complement. For example:

  • Whose is this ridiculous hat? (subject)
  • The cat with the misshapen ears is whose? (subject complement)
  • Whose did the evil man run over? (direct object)
  • Mom bought whose some new shoes? (indirect object)
  • Whosever did you meet with today? (prepositional complement)

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns may function as possessive pronouns through affixation of the possessive clitic (‘s [apostrophe s] or s’ [s apostrophe]). Indefinite pronouns refer to unspecified persons, places, things, and ideas and are most commonly used in impersonal constructions, or sentences that make general statements without a specified grammatical agent. The seven types of indefinite pronouns in English grammar are:

  • Singular Indefinite -one Pronouns
  • Singular Indefinite -body Pronouns
  • Singular Indefinite -thing Pronouns
  • Other Singular Indefinite Pronouns
  • Plural Indefinite Pronouns
  • Singular or Plural Indefinite Pronouns
  • Other Indefinite Pronouns

Affixing the possessive clitic to the end of some indefinite pronouns forms a possessive indefinite pronoun. For example:

  • one – one’s
  • someone – someone’s
  • nobody – nobody’s
  • something – something’s
  • another – another’s
  • both – both’s

Possessive indefinite pronouns perform five functions: subject, subject complement, direct object, indirect object, and prepositional complement. For example:

  • My child did not steal your planter. Someone’s stole my planter. (subject)
  • The fault is both’s. (subject complement)
  • Did you break the computer’s part? I broke something’s. (direct object)
  • Did you give her child a spanking? I gave nobody’s a spanking. (indirect object)
  • Did you give my dog a treat? I gave a treat to someone’s. (prepositional complement)

Possessive indefinite pronouns typically appear in informal speech.

Possessive pronouns are pronouns that express possession of or some other relationship to another word or phrase. Personal, interrogative, and indefinite pronouns can function as possessive pronouns within English grammar.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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