Possessive adjectives are used in Spanish to indicate ownership. They can be used with both singular and plural nouns, and they have different forms depending on the gender of the noun they are describing.
In this guide, we will learn everything you need to know about Spanish possessive adjectives, including:
- The different types of Spanish possessive adjectives
- How to use possessive adjectives in Spanish
- Examples of possessive adjectives in Spanish
- Strategies for learning possessive adjectives in Spanish
By the end of this guide, you will be able to use possessive adjectives confidently in your Spanish conversations and writing.
How do Possessive adjectives work?
In Spanish, possessive adjectives are words that are used with a noun to help define a relationship between a person or an object with another one. Possessive adjectives are commonly used to demonstrate ownership of language.
Although they serve the same purpose as in English, possessive adjectives function slightly differently in Spanish. They vary depending on the plurality and gender of the described noun, which can be confusing while speaking Spanish.
As we have seen, possessive is a word used to describe ownership, whereas an adjective is a word used to describe a noun. When used together, they assist a speaker, listener, or reader determine who or what owns something. There are several types of possessive adjectives used in language:
|English||Masculine singular||Feminine singular||Plural|
Let’s have a look at it with the help of an example:
- Estoy paseando a mi perro – “I am walking my dog”
- Sus padres están de vacaciones – “Her parents are on vacation”
Possessive Adjectives video lesson
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How to use possessive adjectives in Spanish?
Possessive adjectives are used to describe a relationship between two objects in Spanish, either before or after the noun. Because possessive adjectives in Spanish are frequently conjugated based on number and gender, it is significant that they correspond to the correct part of the sentence.
All adjectives in Spanish must be conjugated based on the word they directly describe. In this case, the possessor is the object or person, not the noun describing ownership. For example:
- Vi a tus padres en un restaurante – “I saw your parents at a restaurant”.
Key takeaway: In Spanish, possessive adjectives are used to describe the object rather than the speaker. To use the appropriate adjectives, always differentiate nouns in a sentence.
Types of possessive adjectives
Short-form possessive adjectives
The shortest Spanish possessive adjectives are short-form possessive adjectives. They are also the most common, so if you are a Spanish learner, you may have already come across or used them.
In Spanish, they are known as adjetivos posesivos átonos (“atonic possessive adjectives”) or adjetivos posesivos débiles (“weak possessive adjectives”). In English, we also call them “unstressed possessive adjectives”.
The following chart further explains short-form Spanish possessive adjectives:
|your (with tú and vos)||tu||tu||tus||tus|
|his, her, your (with usted)||su||su||sus||sus|
|your (with vosotros and vosotras)||vuestro||vuestra||vuestros||vuestras|
|their, your (with ustedes)||su||su||sus||sus|
As you can see, short-form possessive adjectives adhere to the Spanish rule of the agreement for adjectives. The first rule concerns numbers. If the noun being described is plural, so is the adjective. Look at mi and mis. Or su and sus.
Spanish has the same rule for adjectives with gender. However, with short-form possessive adjectives, the gender agreement only applies to nuestro/a/os/as and vuestro/a/os/as.
Key takeaway: Adjectives in Spanish agree in gender and number with the word they describe. This means that with possessive adjectives, the adjective changes depending on what is possessed rather than who or what possesses it.
- Dame tus cuadernos – “Give me your notebooks.” (“Your” agrees with “notebooks”.)
- Traje nuestra bicicleta – “I brought our bicycle.” (“Our” agrees with “bicycle”.)
- Marta vio vuestros primos – “Marta saw your cousins.” (“Your” agrees with “cousins”.)
Long-form possessive adjectives
They are called adjetivos posesivos tónicos (“tonic possessive adjectives”) or adjetivos posesivos fuertes (“strong possessive adjectives”) in Spanish. They are not as common as short-form possessive adjectives. They are also known as “stressed possessive adjectives” in English.
The following chart further explains long-form Spanish possessive adjectives:
|of yours (tú, vos)||tuyo||tuya||tuyos||tuyas|
|of his/of hers/of yours (usted)||suyo||suya||suyos||suyas|
|of yours (vosotros/as)||vuestro||vuestra||vuestros||vuestras|
|of theirs/of yours (ustedes)||suyo||suya||suyos||suyas|
Long-form possessive adjectives in Spanish go after the noun they describe. For example:
- Son primos nuestros. – “They are cousins of ours.” Or “They are our cousins.”
- La amiga suya está llegando – “The friend of hers is coming.” Or “Her friend is coming.”
- Es problema tuyo. – “It’s a problem of yours.” Or “It’s your problem.”
They are called “stressed” because they shift their focus away from the noun they describe and direct the focus toward themselves. In other words, when stressed possessive adjectives are used in Spanish, it doesn’t matter where they belong in the sentence. Instead, it is highlighted to whom it belongs.
Some examples including possessive adjectives in Spanish
- Me gusta mi vecindario. → short-form – “I like my neighborhood.”
- El libro mío está dañado. → long-form – “My book is damaged.”
- Aquí están tus amigas. → short-form – “Here are your friends.”
- Las manzanas tuyas son muy buenas.→ long-form – “Your apples are very good.”
- Señor Pablo, su almuerzo está listo. → short-form – “Mr. Pablo, your lunch is ready.”
- Los hijos suyos estudian muy bien. → long-form – “Your children study very well.”
- Amelia no sabe si sus padres vendrán.” → short-form – “Amelia doesn’t know if her parents will come.”
- Rompí nuestra bicicleta. → short-form – “I broke our bicycle.”
- El coche nuestro es azul. → long-form – “Our car is blue.”
- Nuestros primos no se fueron. → short-form – “Our cousins didn’t go.”
- Vuestras camisas están manchadas. → short-form – “Your shirts are stained.”
- El cuaderno vuestro lo tiene Marcos. → long-form – “Marcos has your notebook.”
- Sus perros son muy tiernos. → short-form – “Their dogs are really cute.”
Besides possessive adjectives there two other ways to express possession in Spanish i.e. using the preposition de and using possessive pronouns.
The preposition de is the Spanish equal of the genitive Saxon, the English apostrophe “s”. For example: La bicicleta de John. (“John’s bicycle.”). Possessive pronouns in Spanish look exactly like long-form possessive adjectives
Have a look at this chart:
|Possessive pronouns||Long-form possessive adjectives|
|yours (with tú and vos)||tuyo||tuya||tuyos||tuyas||of yours||tuyo/a/os/as|
|his, hers, yours (with usted)||suyo||suya||suyos||suyas||of his/hers/yours||suyo/a/os/as|
|yours (with vosotros and vosotras)||vuestro||vuestra||vuestros||vuestras||of yours||vuestro/a/os/as|
|theirs, yours (with ustedes)||suyo||suya||suyos||suyas||of theirs/yours||suyo/a/os/as|
Now the question arises that what is the difference between these two?
First of all, they serve different grammatical functions. A pronoun replaces a word or phrase in a sentence in the same way that an adjective describes a word. Usually, this word or phrase has already been mentioned or is implied.
Secondly, possessive pronouns are used after a definite article. The English definite article is “the.” The word “the” in Spanish is el, la, los, las.
- Si olvidaste tu lápiz, usa el nuestro. – “If you forgot your pencil, use ours.”
- No entiendo cuál es la casa de Marta. La mía es la azul. – “I don’t understand which Marta’s house is. Mine is the blue one.”
Some easy strategies to learn Possessive adjectives
Try to make a list of possessive adjectives. Practice building sentences that include possessive adjectives, both short-form, and long-form. It will help you understand them fully.
After some practice, you will be confident in your ability to select appropriate adjectives and spell them correctly. This is when you should start practicing out loud. You can also talk to native speakers as a practice exercise.
You can also quiz yourself through online resources about possessive adjectives in Spanish to improve your speaking skills. Last but not the least, try consulting Spanish media to gain clarity regarding possessive adjectives in Spanish. Watching Spanish media will improve your level of understanding.