Pronouns Part III: Possessive Pronouns

What is a Possessive Pronoun?

If you have ever struggled to recall the difference between its and it’s, this review of possessive pronouns may help.

With many words, ownership in English is indicated by the use of an apostrophe. For example:

  • The cat’s food bowl is empty, and she is very upset about it. (The apostrophe before the “s” means that there is one cat who owns a bowl.)
  • The cats’ food dish is empty, and they are upset about it. (The apostrophe after the “s” means there is more than one cat and that they are all the owners of the same bowl.)


If you’ve been using an apostrophe to make words plural, which is a very common mistake, try to make a mental note to break this habit. You will never use an apostrophe to indicate that a word is plural.

Incorrect: I love my dog’s.

    • Because an apostrophe is used in this way to indicate possession, your reader will wonder, “You love your dog’s what? His breath? Her ears? What?

Incorrect: I love my dogs’.

    • Again, because an apostrophe after the s indicates ownership, in this case by multiple dogs, your reader will be expecting an object or trait to complete this thought.

Correct: I love my dogs.

    • All that is needed to make a word plural in most cases is to add an s. Your reader will immediately understand that you love more than one dog. There are a few words in English that take a spelling change, such as goose/geese or mouse/mice, but never an apostrophe.


Possessive pronouns are special words with only one function: they indicate ownership. Possessive pronouns show ownership without the need for an apostrophe.*

Some possessive pronouns are used alone; others are used to describe a noun:

  • Used alone: mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs, whose  Example: That computer is hers.
  • Used to modify: my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose  Examples: That is her computerThe car needs its clutch replaced.

*Note that none of the possessive pronouns uses an apostrophe to show ownership.


Commonly Confused Possessive Pronouns (pp):

  • Your (pp – Your home is lovely.) / You’re (contraction ‘you are’ – You’re going to do well.)
  • Their (pp – Their dedication is strong.) / There (adverb – There are my gloves) / They’re (contraction ‘they are’ – They’re leaving soon.)
  • Its (pp – Its tires are in need of changing .) / It’s (it is – It’s crucial to know the difference  between it’s and its.)
  • Whose (pp – Whose music is playing? ) / Who’s (who is – Who’s going to the store?)
  • Our (pp – Our friends have come over. ) / Are (verb – Are you coming? How many are there?)



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“Possessive Pronouns” by Leandra Binder was adapted from “5.02: Grammar Lesson 3 – Possessive Pronouns & Other Commonly Confused Words” of  Technical Writing for Technicians, used according to creative commons CC BY 4.0.



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UNM Core Writing OER Collection Copyright © 2023 by University of New Mexico is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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