Spanish Possessive Adjectives: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Imagine a world where you couldn’t talk about what’s mine, yours, ours, or theirs. It would be hard, right?
This is why possessive adjectives are so important, and it’s no different in Spanish!
Spanish has a few more forms of possessive adjectives than English, so brush up on your Spanish pronouns and genders and we can get started!
- What Are Possessive Adjectives?
- Short-form Spanish Possessive Adjectives
- Long-form Spanish Possessive Adjectives
- Notes on Spanish Possessive Adjectives
What Are Possessive Adjectives?
Possessive adjectives, as the name suggests, are adjectives which are used to show who has possession of something.
The words “my,” “your,” “our,” “their,” etc. are all English possessive adjectives that show who something belongs to:
Where are my keys?
Let’s go to their house
Spanish possessive adjectives work similarly, with a few key differences in how they’re formed.
It’s important that you pay attention to the gender and the number of the thing being owned so that you use the proper adjective.
Short-form Spanish Possessive Adjectives
Here are the different Spanish possessive adjectives. Note that to make a singular adjective plural, you simply add s.
|English||Spanish Singular Possessive Adjective||Spanish Plural Possessive Adjective|
|Your (informal group)||Vuestro/vuestra||Vuestros/vuestras|
As you can see in the table, mi and tu as possessive adjectives don’t have accent marks. If you add accent marks to these adjectives, you would end up with different words: mí which means “for me,” and tú which means “you.”
Both nuestro and vuestro change based on the gender of the thing we own. It’s important to note that this has nothing to do with our genders, that is, the gender identities of the people who are owning something.
Nuestro teléfono — Our telephone
Vuestra casa — Your house
Mi, tu and su do not change for gender, so “his,” “her,” “their,” formal “your” and “its” are all the same word in Spanish: su.
Also remember that those plural possessive adjectives are used for when multiple things are owned, not when multiple people own something.
Here are some examples of how these short-form possessive adjectives are used, keeping in mind that they always come before a noun.
Son mis libros — These are my books
Nuestro hijo es alto — Our son is tall
Me gusta tu camisa — I like your shirt
Long-form Spanish Possessive Adjectives
Long-form Spanish possessive adjectives are, for the most part, reserved for things like older literature, poems, or songs.
No one uses this form in everyday speech nowadays—except for sentences about certain relationships, which are equivalent to the “[relationship] of [possessive]” structure in English, as well as in some other, very specific cases. For example:
- Un amigo mío vive aquí — A friend of mine lives here
- Me encontré a un conocido tuyo — I ran into an acquaintance of yours
- ¡Madre mía! — Good heavens! (literally “Mother of mine!”)
- Amigo mío, fue un placer verte — My dear friend (literally “friend of mine“), it was a pleasure to meet you
But for the sake of completeness, we’re going to share them with you anyway.
Unlike short-form possessive adjectives, long-form possessive adjectives are used after nouns. They modify according to the gender and number of the thing being possessed, as follows:
|English||Singular Male||Singular Female||Plural Male||Plural Female|
|Of yours (Informal)||Tuyo||Tuya||Tuyos||Tuyas|
|Of his/hers/theirs/yours (Formal)||Suyo||Suya||Suyos||Suyas|
|Of yours (Informal, plural)||Vuestro||Vuestra||Vuestros||Vuestras|
Notes on Spanish Possessive Adjectives
When to Avoid Possessive Adjectives
The most common mistakes made by English speakers with Spanish possessive adjectives actually involve using them too much!
Here are some situations not to use possessive adjectives:
- When you have a reflexive verb. If the action in question is already “going back” onto the subject (as with a reflexive verb) you don’t need a possessive adjective.
Me lavo las manos — I’m washing my hands (literally: I’m washing myself the hands)
- When talking about body parts. Don’t use possessive adjectives if you’re talking about parts of the body. Instead, use the definite article.
Se rompió la pierna — She broke her leg (literally: she broke herself the leg)
- If it’s not followed by a noun. In this case, you probably need a possessive pronoun instead.
¡Todo lo que ves aquí es mío! — Everything you see here is mine!
- If ownership is obvious. If it’s clear what (or who) belongs to who, there’s no need for a possessive adjective. For example if you’ve already mentioned that something belongs to you, or it can easily be assumed from the context.
Voy a ir al hotel — I’m going to go to my hotel (literally: I’m going to go to the hotel)
Repeating Possessive Adjectives
In Spanish you generally repeat the possessive adjectives when talking about more than one object that’s owned—in contrast to in English, where one possessive adjective is usually enough.
Son mis lápices y mis cuadernos — They are my pencils and my notebooks
The exception to this is when you’re using two nouns to describe the same actual thing.
Es mi amante y mejor amigo — He is my lover and best friend (talking about a single amazing person who fulfills these two functions)
Possessive Adjectives vs. Possessive Pronouns
It can be pretty easy to get mixed up between possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns in Spanish.
The simplest way to remember the difference is to recognize that possessive adjectives describe nouns, whereas pronouns completely replace them.
Mi gato es negro — My cat is black
El gato negro es mío — The black cat is mine
Note that the first sentence uses a possessive adjective (my cat) and the second sentence uses a possessive pronoun (the cat is mine).
If you want to know more about possessive pronouns, check out this post.
Showing Possession in Other Ways
Although possessive adjectives are probably the most straightforward way to demonstrate possession, they are not the only way that you can do this.
Showing Possession with Possessive Pronouns
As we already touched on, we can use possessive pronouns to show possession.
Note that the possessive pronouns are the same as the long-form possessive adjectives and have similar meanings.
Possessive pronoun: Ese perro es mío — That dog is mine
Long-form pronoun: Es un amigo nuestro — He’s a friend of ours
Showing Possession with De
Another way we can express possession is with the preposition de, which means “of,” but can be placed after a noun to express ownership.
This especially comes in handy where we’d usually use su, as it can be difficult to determine who exactly that word is talking about.
Here are some examples:
Es el artículo de Roberta — It’s Roberta’s article
Es el artículo de ella — It’s her article
Es el artículo de ustedes — It’s your article
If you want to see how possessive adjectives are used, you can try exposing yourself to Spanish conversation or media to watch how natives incorporate this element into their speech.
FluentU is a great resource for this as the program uses native video clips from movies, TV shows, etc. to show you how Spanish speaking natives demonstrate possession.
You’ll even find tools like flashcards, interactive subtitles and flashcards to boost your learning. The program is offered on both iOS and Android.
I’m guessing you feel possessive over a few things in your life as well; now you should have the vocabulary to say so!