Glossary: possessive

Explanation

A form of noun (with ' or 's added) or pronoun that is often used to show possession.

A possessive can be:

  • a noun followed by an apostrophe, with or without s
  • a possessive pronoun.
  • Tariq’s book [Tariq has the book]
  • The boys’ arrival [the boys arrive]
  • That essay is mine. [I wrote the essay]

The relation expressed by a possessive goes well beyond ordinary ideas of ‘possession’. A possessive may act as a determiner.

  • His obituary [the obituary is about him]

The meaning of a possessive is not always 'possession' in a literal sense, e.g. John's arrival.

See also possessive adjective.

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the possessive pronouns

Find the possessive pronouns in a range of examples

Identify the possessive pronouns in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) to select or deselect them.

Nouns

In terms of meaning, nouns are sometimes described as ‘naming words’ – words for people, animals and things. The noun class does include many words of this kind: brother, baby, rabbit, horse, handbag, chair. These all refer to physical beings or objects – they are concrete nouns. But there are also many abstract nouns – nouns with abstract (non-material) meanings, like pleasure, sight, kindness.

Pronouns: Advanced

Pronouns behave in some ways like nouns and can sometimes replace them in a sentence. For this reason, pronouns are often treated as a subclass of nouns and there are some good reasons for doing this, but they are – in some important ways – different from nouns.

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