How to say 'my' in French?

There are generally three words for my in French: mon, ma and mes. To decide whether to use mon, ma or mes to translate my, we need to look at the noun that comes after it ("thing or person owned"). Recall that French nouns can be either masculine (words that you use le with) or feminine (words that you use la with). So to decide which word to use for my in French we need to look at whether that word is masculine or feminine. We also need to consider whether it is plural ("more than one"):

  • if the thing/person is masculine (le), then you generally use mon to translate 'my';
  • if the thing/person is feminine (la), then you generally use ma to translate 'my';
  • if the thing/person is plural (les), then you use mes to translate 'my'.

We'll look at a couple of exceptions to this below.

Examples

Words for people who are male are generally masculine. So with père ("father"), oncle ("uncle"), cousin ("male cousin"), ami ("friend"), frère ("brother"), we use mon:

mon oncle
my uncle
mon père
my father
mon frère
my brother
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On the other hand, words for people who are female are generally feminine. So with mère ("mother"), soeur ("sister"), cousine ("female cousin"), we use ma:

ma mère
my mother
ma soeur
my sister
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With words describing more than one person, such as parents, frères ("brothers"), amis ("friends") etc we would then use mes, whether masculine or feminine:

mes amis
my friends
mes parents
my parents
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With words that describe things rather than people, we have to "just know" whether the word is masculine or feminine (there are some tips we can use to decide whether a word is masculine or feminine, but with a lot of common words, there's no easy way to know other than looking in the dictionary/phrase book and remembering). For example:

  • the word livre ("book") is masculine, so the French for my book is mon livre;
  • the word famille ("family") is feminine, so the French for my family is ma famille.

Saying "my" when the following word begins with a vowel

In the singular, the word for my is also mon if the following word is feminine and begins with a vowel. Thus, the French for "my female friend" is mon amie (not *ma amie). Similarly, the French for "my school" is mon école: even though the word école is feminine (and so we'd expect to use ma), it begins with a vowel, and so mon is used instead.

Saying "my" with parts of the body

With words for parts of the body, French often uses the word for the (le, la, les) whereas in English, the word my would be used. So in simple statements of something that happened to a part of the body, such as I broke my leg, instead of ma, the word la would be used:

je me suis cassé la jambe
I broke my leg
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Similarly, to say My leg hurts in French, using the phrase J’ai mal à..., this becomes:

J’ai mal à la jambe.
My leg hurts.
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(To learn about the form je me suis cassé, look at the sections on reflexive verbs and the perfect tense.)

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.