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What is a Possessive Adjective? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you think that grammar is difficult or you have a hard time breaking down the different parts of a sentence, you are absolutely not alone. In this lesson, we will take a straightforward look at possessive adjectives. Read on to get the scoop.

Genetic Grammar

A famous linguist (this is just a fancy way of saying someone who studies language) named Noam Chomsky came up with a theory that good grammar is genetic. What do you think? It certainly seems like some people just ''get it'' and some people just don't. The real secret to understanding grammar is to break it down and simplify it. That is exactly what we will do in this lesson with possessive adjectives. In fact, that hardest part about possessive adjectives is trying to say it five times fast.

Possessive Adjectives

Let's make it really simple. To begin the lesson on what possessive adjectives are, we'll look at the actual words first:

  • My
  • Your
  • His
  • Her
  • Its
  • Our
  • Their

Almost anytime you see one of those words, it will be possessive adjective. Got it? Now, let's break this down.

Possession

If we break down the label ''possessive adjective'' into its two words, we can get a nice clear meaning. ''Possessive'' just means a word that helps show ownership. Phrases like my keys, your desk or their pet hippo all contain words that show ownership. In fact, they all contain possessive adjectives. If you can figure out who owns it by looking at a sentence, chances are the sentence uses a possessive adjective. For example, if I write ''This is my fancy sports car,'' you can answer the question, ''Whose fancy sports car is it?'' Your answer is easy because of the possessive adjective ''my.''

Let's try another example. Where is the possessive adjective in this sentence? ''I can't find my keys!'' If you feel stuck, you can check out the list of possessive adjectives, or you can ask yourself which word tells you who something belongs to? Whose keys are they? If you said ''my'' as the possessive adjective, great work!

Adjectives

The second part of the phrase ''possessive adjective'' is the word ''adjective.'' An adjective is just a word that describes something else. An adjective gives you a hint about an item or a noun. We normally think of adjectives as words like slimy, wet, dry, angry, bald or fluffy, but possessive adjectives give us a different kind of detail. For example, in the sentence ''This is your rubber ducky,'' you can see that a rubber ducky is being talked about. Ask yourself what details are being given. did it say that it was yellow, cartoonish or wet? No. So, what do we know about the rubber ducky? So far, we know that it is ''your'' rubber ducky. The word ''your'' tells us who the rubber ducky belongs to.

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