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The Possessive Determiner in English Grammar

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The Possessive Determiner in English Grammar

Determiners are a closed class of words that provide information such as familiarity, location, quantity, and number about a noun or noun phrase. Determiners differ in form and function from adjectives, which describe attributes of nouns and noun phrases. Similar to possessive pronouns, possessive determiners express possession of or some other relationship to another word or phrase. The eight possessive determiners in English are:

  • my
  • your
  • his
  • her
  • its
  • our
  • their
  • whose (possessive interrogative determiner)

Like other determiners, possessive determiners perform the grammatical function of determinative. Like other interrogative determiners, the possessive interrogative determiner whose also formulates direct or indirect questions and exclamations.

Using Possessive Determiners

Possessive determiners indicate possession of or some other relationship to another word or phrase. For example:

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  • my house (the house belongs to me)
  • your daughter (the daughter is yours)
  • his grade (the grade he earned)
  • her uncle (the uncle is hers)
  • its mouth (the mouth that is part of its body)
  • their vacation plans (the vacation plans they have created)

The possessive interrogative determiner whose additionally formulate questions in addition to expressing possession or another relationship. For example:

  • whose car
  • whose mother
  • whose singing

Possessive determiners express possession of or some other relationship to another word or phrase. The eight possessive determiners in English are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose.

Summary

Possessive determiners in English grammar are words that indicate possession of or some other relationship to a noun or nominal verb.

Possessive determiner is a grammatical form. The grammatical function performed by possessive determiners is determinative.

The eight possessive determiners in English are my, your, his, her, its, our, and their and the possessive interrogative determiner whose.

Some grammars also incorrectly use the terms possessive adjective and possessive pronoun for possessive determiner.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cat. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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