SPANISH POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES

In this post you will learn about Spanish possessive adjectives, including:

-their various forms,

-their person, gender and number, and

-their stress and graphic accent.

WHAT ARE POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES ?

Possessive adjectives establish a relationship between two things. As the name indicates, this relationship described by possessives very often consists of possession, but possessives can be used to express other kinds of relationships, such as kinship, inclusion, attribution or preference.

Es mi coche. (It’s my car.) Here the possessive expresses possession.

Es mi padre. (He’s my father.) Here the possessive expresses kinship.

To simplify things, the following explanations will deal with possession, but keep in mind that this is not always the case.

LONG-STRESSED FORMS

The following chart describes the full-stressed forms of Spanish possessive adjectives, which are used after a noun or in the absence of one.

Possessor

Possessed Object

Masculine

Feminine

Singular

Plural

Singular

Plural

first person singular

o

os

a

as

second person singular

tuyo

tuyos

tuya

tuyas

third person singular

suyo

suyos

suya

suyas

first person plural

nuestro

nuestros

nuestra

nuestras

second person plural

vuestro

vuestros

vuestra

vuestras

third person plural

suyo

suyos

suya

suyas

Although only the first person singular forms have a graphic accent, all these forms are stressed.

SHORT-UNSTRESSED FORMS

The following chart describes the short-unstressed forms of Spanish possessive adjectives, used when the possessives precede a noun.

Possessor

Possessed Object

Masculine

Feminine

Singular

Plural

Singular

Plural

first person singular

mi

mis

mi

mis

second person singular

tu

tus

tu

tus

third person singular

su

sus

su

sus

first person plural

nuestro

nuestros

nuestra

nuestras

second person plural

vuestro

vuestros

vuestra

vuestras

third person plural

su

sus

su

sus

When compared to the full-stressed forms, the first person singular, second person singular, and third person singular and plural forms are missing a sound or two.

None of these forms are stressed.

Although the first person plural and second person plural forms share the same spelling in both charts, the ones included in the previous chart are stressed while those in this chart are unstressed.

Este libro es nuestro. (This book is ours.) Here nuestro is stressed.

Nuestro libro está aquí. (Our book is here.) Here nuestro is not stressed.

Notice that mi (my) and tu (your) don’t have a graphic accent, in contrast with the personal pronouns mí (me) and tú (you).

PERSON

As you can see in the charts, Spanish possessive adjectives express person to determine the possessor.

The first person corresponds to the person speaking and, in the case of the plural, the group that includes the speaker. In English, this would be “I” or “we”. The full possessives for the first person singular are mío, míos, mía and mías (mine). The corresponding short forms are mi and mis (my). The full possessives for the first person plural are nuestro, nuestros, nuestra and nuestras (ours / our).

There are no short forms for the first person plural, so both charts include the same entries for these words. However, remember that they are stressed when used after a noun or in the absence of one, but they are not stressed when used before a noun.

 

The second person corresponds to the person receiving the message from the speaker and, in the case of the plural, the group that includes the receiver. In English, this would be “you”, for both singular and plural. The full possessives for the second person singular are tuyo, tuyos, tuya and tuyas (yours), while the short forms are tu and tus (your). The full possessives for the second person plural are vuestro, vuestros, vuestra and vuestras (yours / your).

Again, there are no short forms for the second person plural, so both charts include the same entries for these words. And like the full possessives for the first person plural, they are stressed when used after a noun or in the absence of one, but they are not stressed when used before a noun.

 

The third person corresponds to other persons or objects.  Most often, the third person refers to persons, but there is no problem to use it to refer to animal, plants or non-living beings. In English, this would be “he”, “she”, “it” or “they”.

The third person singular and the third person plural share the same forms, so the difference can only be deduced from the context in which the possessive is being used.

The full possessives for the third person singular and plural are suyo, suyos, suya and suyas (his, hers, theirs), while the short forms are su and sus (his, her, its, their).

As happens with personal pronouns, the third person possessives are used to refer to the second person in a more polite way in Spain. Second person pronouns and possessive adjectives are less frequently used in most parts of Latin America, and it’s normal to use the third person pronouns and possessives to refer to the second person.

NUMBER

Possessive adjectives differentiate between the number of the possessor and the number of the possessed object.

As shown above, the first and second person possessives have different sets of forms to refer to a single possessor or to several possessors.

Single possessor: Este coche es mío. (This car is mine.)

Several possessors: Este coche es nuestro. (This car is ours.)

Additionally, there are different forms to differentiate if the possessed object is singular or plural. The plural form is always formed adding -s to the singular form.

Single possessor-Single possessed object: Este coche es mío. (This car is mine.)

Single possessor-Several possessed objects: Estos coches son míos. (These cars are mine.)

Several possessors-Single possessed object: Este coche es nuestro. (This car is ours.)

Several possessors-Several possessed objects: Estos coches son nuestros. (These cars are ours.)

GENDER

Unlike other languages like English, Spanish possessive adjectives can never express a difference in the possessor’s gender, but they can express a difference in the gender of the possessed object.

This means that the possessive agrees in gender with the possessed object’s gender, but never with the possessor’s gender. This can be tricky, but you’ll soon get used to it.

Masculine-singular: Este lápiz es mío. (This pencil is mine.)

Feminine-singular: Esta taza es mía. (This cup is mine.)

In the case of the third person singular, we cannot know the gender of the possessor from the possessive, or whether the possessor is singular or plural. Also complicating matters is the fact that the possessor can actually refer to the second person in formal speech. So suyo, suyos, suya and suyas can mean his, hers, theirs and yours (both singular and plural).

Este lápiz es suyo. (This pencil is his / hers / theirs / yours.)

Esta taza es suya. (This cup is his / hers / theirs / yours.)

 

A common mistake would be to change the gender of the possessive having in mind the gender of the possessor instead of the gender of the noun for the possessed object.

For example, using a masculine form because the possessor is a man, even if the noun that expresses the possessed object is feminine:

Ahí viene Antonio; esta taza es suyo suya. (Here comes Antonio; this cup is his.)

Or using a feminine form because the possessor is a man, even if the noun that expresses the possessed object is masculine:

Ahí viene María, este libro es suya suyo. (Here comes María; this book is hers.)

Remember to think about this before using any possessive.

USE OF DE + PERSONAL PRONOUN

It is common in Latin America, but not in Spain, to use the preposition de (of) followed by the personal pronouns él (he), ella (she), ellos (they, masculine), ellas (they, feminine), usted (you, singular, polite) or ustedes (you, plural, polite) instead of, or in combination with, the possessives.

Este libro es de usted. (This book is yours.)

Su libro de ella está aquí. (Her book is here.)

In those cases, the person, the number and the gender of the possessor can be deduced from the pronoun. Only usted and ustedes don’t distinguish gender.

 

Read more about the use of the possessives here, or find other helpful articles about Spanish here.

If you have any questions related to this post, you can leave a comment or send me a message through the contact form.

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