French possessive adjectives

Possessive Adjectives

In English, we often use phrases like “my book” or “your hair.” These are known as possessive adjectives. They are used to modify the word that follows, telling you more about the noun itself, indicating who owns the thing the noun describes, so to speak. The French equivalents of these pronouns are usually used in the same way an article is used, placed before the noun to modify it.

These adjectives replace the definite or indefinite article. When you use it, you are changing the meaning to “my” or “your” or “his,” instead of “the” or “an.” You are indicating something specific, something owned by someone, so possessive adjectives replace articles entirely. (See Chapter 4 for more on articles.) Here are examples of possessive adjectives:

  • J’échoue mon examen. (I am failing my test.)
  • Elle ment sur son âge. (She lies about her age.)
  • Est-ce que vous meublez votre maison? (Are you furnishing your home?)

The following possessive adjectives correspond to je, tu, and il or elle respectively. They are used when you wish to indicate that only one person possesses the item in question.

Table 10-19

1st Person my mon (mohn) ma (mah) mes (may)
2nd Person your ton (tohn) ta (tah) tes (tay)
3rd Person his or hers son (sohn) sa (sah) ses (say)

The forms that correspond to nous, vous, and ils or elles are formed slightly differently. In the singular, the word is the same, whether used with a feminine or masculine noun.

Table 10-20

1st Person our notre (not-truh) nos (no)
2nd Person your votre (vot-truh) vos (vo)
3rd Person their leur (leuhr) leurs (leuhr)

The following samples show some possessive adjectives in action.

  • J’ai besoin de votre aide. (I need your help.)
  • Il aime son chat. (He loves his cat.)
  • Ils habitent dans ma ville. (They live in my city.)
  • J’achète leur livre. (I am buying their book.)
  • Est-ce que tu étudies pour nos examens? (Are you studying for our tests?)

Demonstrative Adjectives



Possessive Adjectives
In French de and the name of the person show possession.
le livre de Paul
Paul’s book

la me`re de Marie et de Georges
Mary and George’s mother
les livres des garc¸ons
the boys’ books
Following are the forms for the possessive adjectives.
Masculine Masculine or Feminine Plural
singular feminine singular singular
before a vowel
my mon mon ma mes
your (fam.) ton ton ta tes
his, her, its son son sa ses
our notre notre notre nos
your votre votre votre vos
their leur leur leur leurs
The possessive adjective agrees in number and in gender with the noun modified, i.e., with the
object possessed, not with the possessor.
mon fre`re my brother
ma soeur my sister
mes fre`res my brothers
Elle a son livre. She has her book.
Il a son livre. He has his book.
Note that mon, ton and son are used before feminine nouns or adjectives beginning with a vowel or
silent h.
mon amie He´ le`ne my friend Helen
mon histoire pre´fe´re´e my favorite story
The possessive adjective must be repeated before each noun.
Je dois e´crire a` ma soeur, a` mes parents et a` mon oncle.
Note that French uses the singular possessive adjective when only one object is possessed by
each person.
Ils attachent leur ceinture de se´curite´ . (Each person has only one seatbelt.)
They fasten their seatbelts.
Use of the Definite Article as a Possessive
Possessive adjectives are not used when referring to parts of the body or clothing, or with mental
faculties, when the possessor is clearly indicated by the use of the indirect object pronoun before the verb.
Il a les mains dans les poches.
He has his hands in his pockets.
Elle lui a fait mal au bras.
She hurt his arm.
Le`ve la main.
Raise your hand.
Il a baisse´ la teˆ te.
He lowered his head.

Il a perdu la me´moire.
He lost his memory.
When the possessor has not been mentioned, the possessive adjective can be used.
Ses yeux e´taient d’un noir profond.
Elle avait les yeux d’un noir profond.
In the last sentence, the possessor elle is indicated and, therefore, the definite article is used; however,
after regarder, montrer or voir and when you want to emphasize the part of the body, the possessive
adjectives are used with parts of the body.
Montre-moi tes mains.
Show me your hands.
Donne-moi ta main gauche.
Give me your left hand.
Elle regarde ses cheveux.
She looks at his hair.
With on, personne, tout le monde
When the object possessed is in the same clause as on, personne and tout le monde, the third person
singular possessive adjectives son, sa, ses are used.
On aime son pe`re et sa me` re.
Tout le monde veut faire de son mieux.
If, however, the object possessed is in a different clause from the one where on is used, the
possessive adjectives notre and votre are used.
On n’est pas me´chant par nature. Ce sont les circonstances qui nous forcent a` l’eˆtre malgre´ notre
de´ sir.
With chacun
If chacun is a subject or object, son, sa, ses are used.
Chacun a son de´ faut.
Each one has his(her) own faults.
If a plural subject is modified by chacun, the possessive adjective agrees with the subject.
Nous avons apporte´ chacun nos provisions.
Ils feront chacun son (leur) devoir.
Ils sont partis chacun de son (leur) coˆ te´ .
The third person can be singular or plural.
The idea of possession can also be expressed by using eˆtre a` plus a disjunctive pronoun.
Ce livre est a` moi.
C’est mon propre livre.
This is my own book.
It can also be expressed by a demonstrative pronoun plus de plus a noun.
mon auto et celle3 de mon pe`re
my car and my father’s (car)

To avoid ambiguity in translating his or her, a prepositional phrase a` lui or a` elle may be used.
Il parle a` son pe`re a` elle. (her father)
Il parle a` son pe`re a` lui. (his father)


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