Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 24): les adjectifs possessifs


Source: french.about.com

Possessive adjectives are the words used in place of articles to indicate to whom or what something belongs. French possessive adjectives are used similarly to English possessive adjectives, but there are some differences in form.

French has more more possessives than English, because there are different forms not only for grammatical person and number, but sometimes also the gender and the first letter of the thing possessed (vowel sound).

When describing two or more nouns in French, a possessive adjective must be used in front of each one. For example:

son frère et sa soeur – his brother and sister
notre fils et notre fille – our son and daughter

The possessive adjective is almost never used with body parts in French. Instead, pronominal verbs are used to show possession with body parts. For example:

Je me suis cassé la jambe. I broke my leg (literally, I broke the leg of myself).
Il se lave les cheveux. He’s washing his hair (literally, he washes the hair of himself).

Singular

Plural

Masculine

Feminine

Before Vowel

My (je form)

mon

ma

mon

mes

your (tu form)

ton

ta

ton

tes

his, her, its (il, elle form)

son

sa

son

ses

our (nous form)

notre

nos

your (vous form)

votre

vos

their (ils, elles form)

leur

leurs

For example:

mon stylo – my pen (masculine singular)
ma montre – my watch (feminine singular)
mes livres – my books (masculine plural)

ton stylo – your pen (masculine singular)
ta montre – your watch (feminine singular)
tes livres – your books
(masculine plural)

son stylo – your pen (masculine singular)
sa montre – your watch (feminine singular)
ses livres – your books
(masculine plural)

When a feminine noun begins with a vowel, the masculine possessive is used. For example:

mon amie – my female friend (feminine singular)
ton amie – your female friend (feminine singular)
son amie – his/her/its female friend
( feminine singular)

Important note, which is actually the confusing part. In French, it is the gender of the noun that determines which form to use, not the gender of the subject. This difference between English and French possessive adjectives can be particularly confusing when talking about him/her/it.  Son, sa, and ses can each mean his, her, or its depending on the context. If the gender of the person the item belongs to is needed to be stressed, use à lui (belonging to him) or à elle (belonging to her). For example:

C’est son livre, à elle. It’s her book.
Voici sa monnaie, à lui. Here’s his change.

There are only two forms for plural subjects (we, you and they): singular and plural.

notre stylo – our pen (singular)
nos montres – our watches
(plural)

votre stylo – your pen (singular)
vos montres – your watches
(plural)

leur stylo – their pen (singular)
leurs montres – their watches
(plural)

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