Possessive Forms

Possessive forms can be confusing.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

Possession means that something belongs to someone. Possessive forms show ownership in the English language.

In many other languages, possession is shown by using the word "of."

  • The car of the man
    (The car belongs to the man.)

  • The shoes of the man

    (The man owns the shoes.)

  • The keys of Mike

    (The keys belong to Mike.)

  • The legs of the chair

    (The legs are part of the chair.)

In the English language, possession is shown by using these possessive forms:

Possessive Nouns

A) Possessive singular nouns

We form possessives from singular nouns by adding an apostrophe ( ' ) and an "s" to the end of the word.

singular noun + 's = possessive form

  • dog = I built the dog's house.

  • man =  She fixed the man's phone.

  • student = Is that the student's book?

  • girl = The girl's doll is broken.

  • brother = My brother's bicycle is green.

  • Nick = Nick's daughter is 6 years old.

  • Jesse = Jesse's shirt is pink.

  • car = The car's tire is flat.

flat tire

Singular nouns that end in "s" can be confusing. Style books do not agree on how to show ownership with singular nouns ending in "s."

Some people say to always add an apostrophe and an "s" to the end of the singular word.

Example: boss's

Other people say to only add an apostrophe to the end of the singular noun.

Example: boss'

According to most style books, either way is usually okay!

A good rule is to leave off the extra "s" if it makes the word sound confusing.

For example, these words sound okay with an extra "s":
  • boss = boss's car

  • Francis = Francis's house

  • class = class's teacher

These words can sound confusing with an extra "s" (these are states in the United States):confused boy

  • Kansas = Kansas' cities (instead of Kansas's cities)

  • Massachusetts = Massachusetts' government (instead of Massachusetts's government)

B) Possessive plural nouns

We form possessives from plural nouns in two ways.

1. For regular plural nouns that end in "s", add an apostrophe after the "s." (Do not add another "s"!)

This indicates ownership by more than one.

regular plural noun + apostrophe = possessive form
  • singular => cat

    plural => cats

    The cats' food is in the bowl.

    (There's more than one cat that eats the food.)

  • singular => crayon

    plural => crayons

    I lost the crayons' box.

    (There are multiple crayons in the box.)

  • singular => car

    plural => cars

    The cars' tires were flat.

    (There's more than one car with flat tires.)
flat tire    flat tire   flat tire

2. For irregular plural nouns that do not end in an "s", add an apostrophe and an "s" at the end of the word.

This indicates ownership by more than one.

irregular plural noun + 's = possessive form
  • singular => man

    plural => men

    She fixed the men's phones.

    (There are multiple men with phones.)

  • singular => child

    plural => children

    The children's parents were waiting.

    (There are many children whose parents are waiting.)

  • singular => person

    plural => people

    The people's cars were stolen.

    (There were many cars that were stolen.)

You can learn more about using apostrophes in the English language here:

How to use the Apostrophe in the English Language

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns usually come after a noun or object.

These are the possessive pronouns and the subjects they represent:

Subject Possessive Pronoun
I Mine
You (singular) Yours
He His
She Hers
It Its
We Ours
You (plural) Yours
They Theirs

  • The flowers are mine.

    (I own the flowers.)

  • That check is yours.

    (The check belongs to you.)

  • That bicycle is his.

    (He owns the bicycle.)

  • The big dog is hers.

    (She owns the dog.)

  • The big nest is its.

    (The nest belongs to it.)

    "Its" is not very common as a possessive pronoun in the English language. It is more common to use the possessive adjective form of "its."

    Example: That is its big nest.

  • The television is ours.

    (We own the television.)

  • The cake is yours.

    (You all own the cake.)

  • The blue car is theirs.

    (They own the blue car.)
blue car

You can learn more about possessive pronouns here:

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives are very similar to possessive pronouns. Make sure you don't confuse them.

Possessive adjectives always come before a noun. They work as an adjective and modify the noun.

These are the possessive adjectives and the subjects they represent:

Subject Possessive Adjective
I My
You (singular) Your
He His
She Her
It Its
We Our
You (plural) Your
They Their

  • Please hand me my pencil.

    (I own the pencil.)

  • Did you bring your book?

    (You own the book.)

  • I found his dog.

    (He owns the dog.)

  • We mailed her check.

    (She owns the check.)

  • The bird sat in its nest.

    (The nest belongs to it.)

  • We painted our house.

    (We own the house.)

  • Class, please sit in your seats.

    (The seats belong to you.)

  • They are listening to their coach.

    (The coach belongs to them.)

You can learn more about possessive adjectives here:

Possessive Adjectives

This was an overview of Possessive Forms. Now that you know them, it is time to practice: Illustrated Worksheet on Possessives Forms.

See also: Why Are Possessives Important? (Simple and Illustrated)

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