French Possessive Adjectives


Possessive adjectives are words used in place of articles to indicate to whom or to what something belongs. French possessive adjectives are used in similar ways to English possessive adjectives. Like English, the French language has a special group of adjectives that indicate possession of the nouns that follow. Possession, as you probably already know, indicates who owns an object or who that object belongs to. In French grammar, there are three forms of the possessive for each singular person (I, you, he/she/it). The gender, number, and first letter of the noun possessed determine which form to use.

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A possessive adjective shows that a noun belongs to a specific person. In English, possessive adjectives translate to my, your, his/her, ours, yours, and theirs.

Unlike in English, the gender of the object being possessed is very important in French. The correct possessive adjective agrees in gender and number with the noun being possessed and not with the possessor.

Before a masculine singular nounBefore a feminine singular nounBefore a plural nounMeaning

Note: The gender of the object is not important only when that object begins with a vowel; in that case, the muscular singular possessive adjective is used.

            Mon appartement (masc.) → My apartment

            Mon histoire (fem.) → My story

The questions you should ask yourself before choosing a possessive adjective are:

  1. “What is being possessed?”
  2. “Is that person or thing a masculine, feminine, or plural word in French?”
  3. “If it’s feminine singular, does it come before a vowel?”

Other Examples:

Note the gender and number of each word that is possessed and how the possessive adjective changes. This concept is consistent in French grammar whether or not people are being talked about, as all objects have an assigned gender.

Mon frère = My brother          Ton père = Your father           Son oncle = His oncle

Ma soeur = My sister              Ta mère = Your mother          Sa tante = His aunt

Notre famille = Our family     Vos amis = Your friends        Leurs cousins = Their cousins

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.