Yours, Mine, and Ours: Expressing Possession

Imagine that you are on a group tour and everyone's luggage has just been dropped off at your hotel in Lima. How are you going to sort out which bag is whose? Well, it's simple. You're going to use possessive adjectives to say things like “My bag is red” and “Your bag is over there.” Here's what the possessive adjectives look like:

Possessive Adjectives

English

Spanish

my

mi, mis

your

tu, tus; su, sus; vuestro(a), vuestros(as)

our

nuestro(a), nuestros(as)

their

su, sus

Agreement in Possessives

Remember that the possessives are adjective forms. As such they have to agree in number and gender with the object or objects possessed. Agreement in number affects the possessives referring to the subjects yo, tú, and él, ella, usted and their plural forms ellos, ellas, ustedes. Number and gender are reflected in the possessive forms referring to nosotros and vosotros.

Possessive adjectives agree in number and gender of the object or objects possessed. They do not agree with the number or gender of the possessor. The phrase “his magazines” is translated as sus revistas in Spanish. The possessive is plural because it refers to a plural item. It is irrelevant that the magazines belong to only one person, in this case masculine.

Let's look at some examples to refresh your memory about possessive adjectives:

Possessives in Action

Subject Pronoun

Possessive Singular

Possessive Plural

yo

mi libro

mis libros

tu amiga

tus amigas

él, ella, usted

su periódico

sus periódicos

nosotros

nuestro libro y

nuestra amiga

nuestros libros y

nuestras amigas

vosotros

vuestro libro y

vuestra amiga

vuestros libros y

vuestras amigas

ellos, ellas, ustedes

su libro

sus libros

The only possessive forms that reflect gender as well as number are the two that refer to nosotros (we) and vosotros (you familiar plural in Spain). While all possessive adjectives have singular and plural forms, these two also have masculine and feminine forms.

Subject Pronoun or Possessive Adjective?

Be careful not to confuse the subject pronouns nosotros (we) and vosotros (you) with their masculine plural possessive adjective forms:nuestros (our) and vuestros (your). They may look very similar, but there is a big difference between the subject and the possessive. Notice too, that the possessive adjective for third person singular and plural, “his, her, your” (singular and plural), and “their” is the same: su. The meaning is understood from the context of the sentence in which it is used. If you're talking about María and then refer to her car, there will be absolutely no confusion about who su refers to.

The only difference between the familiar subject pronoun tú (you) and its possessive adjective tu (your) is the accent mark. The subject pronoun always has an accent mark to differentiate it from the possessive adjective. Both words are pronounced exactly the same.

You, You, and You

Remember that there are several ways to say “you” in Spanish, and each one has its possessive form. If the item possessed belongs to someone you would address as , the possessive adjectives are tu and tus. In Spain, the plural of is vosotros, which has four possessive forms, as we've seen:vuestro, vuestra, vuestros, and vuestras. If you refer to someone as usted, the possessive adjectives used are su and sus.

Practice: Possessives

Practice a bit by translating the following sentences into Spanish. There are hints to guide you through the references to “your.” Then check your work in Appendix D.

  • My book is interesting.

  • Your () shoes are pretty.

  • Her boyfriend is Puerto Rican.

  • Your (usted) ideas are very good.

  • Your (vosotros) brothers are working now, aren't they?

  • Your (ustedes) glasses are on the table.

  • O ur teachers (feminine) are intelligent.

  • Their money is in the bank.

  • O ur grandmother is old.

  • Your (vosotros) friend (male) is active.

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