Possessive determiners in French

Possessive determiners, often called "possessive adjectives" in more traditional grammars, are words like my, his, our in English. They introdce a noun phrase and express who 'owns' it.

In English, the choice of possessive determiner sometimes depends on the gender of the owner: his indicates that the owner is male, whilst her indicates that the owner is female. In English, the choice of possessive determiner doesn't depend on whether the 'thing being owned' is singular or plural. (That is, you can say his book or his books.)

In French, things are slightly different:

  • The choice of determiner depends on the gender of the noun being owned, not on the gender of the owner;
  • There are different forms of the determiner if the noun is plural.

Table of possessive determiners ("possessive adjectives") in French

Bearing these points in mind, here are the possessive determiners in French. The first column contains the French subject that would represent the owner. In the second column are the corresponding possessive determiners, depending on whether the noun that they specify is masculine, feminine or plural. (There's a slight complication with feminine nouns or adjectives beginning with a vowel that we'll see below.)

Possessive determiners in French
French
subject
Corresponding
French determiners
English
equivalent
Examples
jemon (m)
ma (f)
mes (pl)
my
mon père
my father
ma mère
my mother
mes parents
my parents
tuton (m)
ta (f)
tes (pl)
your
ton père
your father
ta mère
your mother
tes parents
your parents
il
elle
on
son (m)
sa (f)
ses (pl)
his, her, one's, its
son père
his/her/one's father
sa mère
his/her/one's mother
ses parents
his/her/one's parents
nousnotre (m/f)
nos (pl)
our
notre père
our father
notre mère
our mother
nos parents
our parents
vousvotre (m/f)
vos (pl)
your
votre père
your father
votre mère
your mother
vos parents
your parents
ils
elles
leur (m/f)
leurs (pl)
their
leur père
their father
leur mère
their mother
leurs parents
their parents

The forms ma, ta, sa before a vowel

The words ma, ta and sa, are replaced by the corresponding masculine form (mon, ton, son) if the following word begins with a vowel.
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For example:

une assiette
a plate
–>
mon assiette
my plate
(instead of ma assiette)
une autre idée
another idea
–>
son autre idée
his/her other idea
(instead of sa autre idée)

But:

une grande assiette
a large plate
–>
ma grande assiette
my large plate

In this case, it doesn't matter that assiette starts with a vowel, because the word immediately after ma is grande, which doesn't start with a vowel.

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