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Overview

Sometimes, you need to explain to whom something belongs. Possessive adjectives do just that by indicating which person possesses or owns a certain entity that is identified by the noun, rather than the noun itself. And like all adjectives in Spanish, the possessive adjective must match the noun it describes in gender and number (when necessary). 

There are basically three ways to express possession in Spanish, two ways using possessive adjectives and one way without. There are also two different forms of possessive adjectives in Spanish: the short form and the long form. Each has its own form and uses.

1. Short-form Possessive Adjectives - most common

Short-form possessive adjectives are the most common way to express possession and must agree with the noun they describe in gender and number for 1st and 2nd person plural, and only in number for all other forms. They do not match the person possessing the noun.

  • Mi libr(singular, masculine)
  • Mis libros (plural, masculine)
  • Nuestro perr(singular, masculine)
  • Nuestros perros (plural, masculine)
  • Nuestra cas(singular, feminine)
  • Nuestras casas (plural, feminine)

They are always placed before the noun they modify and you do not use a definite or indefinite article when using a possessive adjective.

  • Mi amigo peruano es guapo. (My Peruvian friend is handsome.)
  • ¿Dónde están tus libros? (Where are your books?)
  • ¿Son sus niños? (They are your children?)
  • Nuestra casa es muy grande. (Our house is very big.)
  • Vuestras reservaciones son a las ocho. (Your reservations are at 8:00.)
  • Su carro está allá. (Their car is over there.)

Short-form Possessive Adjective Forms

  Singular Plural
1st person mi(s) (my) nuestro, nuestra (our)
nuestros, nuestras
2nd person tu(s) (your familiar) vuestro, vuestra (your familiar)
vuestros, vuestras
3rd person su(s)
(his, her, your formal)
su(s) (their, your formal)

Do not use possessive adjectives when possession is obvious, or falls into the realm of inalienable possession.
Body parts

  • Me duele el brazo. (My arm hurts.)
  • Te gusta el vestido nuevo. (You like your new dress.)

Items that fall within one’s personal sphere

  • Me voy a la casa. (I’m leaving for (my) home.)
  • Se me caen los pantalones. (My pants are falling down.)

Certain natural facilities or capabilities

  • Don Simón tenía algo en la mirada que hacía a la gente hacer las cosas. (Don Simón had something in his eyes that made people do things.)
  • La muchacha había perdido la ilusión por los estudios. (The girl had lost her enthusiasm for her studies.)

2. Possessive Prepositional Phrases

Since su can have five meanings (his, her, your (formal, singular), their, your (formal, plural)), it is sometimes helpful to use a prepositional phrase with personal pronouns or names instead.

(definite/indefinite article) + de + pronoun/name of owner

  • Atlanta es la capital de Georgia. (Atlanta is the capital of Georgia. OR Georgia´s capital is Atlanta.) Much clearer than: Atlanta es su capital. - Who’s capital? His? Her? Your? Their?
  • Es la silla de él. (It´s his seat.)
  • La casa de Elena está allí. (The house of Elena is there. OR Elena´s house is there.)
  • La pizzería de Alán(The pizzeria of Alán OR Alán´s pizzeria.)

3. Long-form Possessive Adjectives

Long-form possessive adjectives are used less often than the short-form possessive adjectives as they are used to emphasize the owner of one noun, to contrast one owner with another, or to emphasize a personal relationship. They must match the noun they modify in both gender and number in all forms.

  • el libro mío (singular, masculine)
  • los libros míos (plural, masculine)
  • la casa mía (singular, feminine)
  • las casas mías (plural, feminine)
  • ¡Dios mío! (My God/My goodness!)

They are placed after the noun they modify. In the case of long-form possessive adjectives, you do use the definite or indefinite article in front of the noun, since the possessive adjective comes later.

  • ¿Dónde están los zapatos tuyos? (Where are your shoes?)
  • Las reservaciones vuestras son a las ocho. (Your reservations are at 8:00.)
  • Este es mi silla y aquélla es la silla tuya. (This is my chair and that one is yours.)

Long-form Possessive Adjective Forms

  Singular Plural
1st person mío, mía (mine)
míos, mías
nuestro, nuestra (ours)
nuestros, nuestras
2nd person tuyo, tuya (yours familiar)
tuyos, tuyas
vuestro, vuestra (yours familiar)
vuestros, vuestras
3rd person suyo, suya (his, hers, yours formal)
suyos, suyas
suyo, suya (theirs, yours formal)
suyos, suyas

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Category: adjectives | Keywords:

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