French Grammar For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

The word possession implies an owner and an object owned. French takes everything into consideration: who the owner is (yourself, him, them), like in English, and also the gender and number of the object owned.

In English, the possessive is only concerned with the owner. You say his books and his car. His reflects only the he is the owner, not the books (which are masculine, plural) or the car (which is feminine, singular).

The table shows you how for a single English possessive adjective, French has two or three equivalents.

French Possessive Adjectives
Owner Gender and Number of Object Owned French Possessive Example
je (I) masculine singular mon (my) mon sac (my bag)
feminine singular ma (my) ma voiture (my car)
masculine and feminine plural mes (my) mes amis (my friends)
tu (you [singular informal]) masculine singular ton (your) ton sac (your bag)
feminine singular ta (your) ta voiture (your car)
masculine and feminine plural tes (your) tes amis (your friends)
il and elle
(he and she)
masculine singular son (his/her) son sac (his/her bag)
feminine singular sa (his/her) sa voiture (his/her car)
masculine and feminine plural ses (his/her) ses amis (his/her friends)
nous (we) masculine and feminine singular notre (our) notre sac (our bag)
notre voiture (our car)
masculine and feminine plural nos (our) nos amis (our friends)
vous (you [singular formal or plural formal and informal]) masculine and feminine singular votre (your) votre sac (your bag)
votre voiture (your car)
masculine and feminine plural vos (your) vos amis (your friends)
ils and elles (they) masculine and feminine singular leur (their) leur sac (their bag)
leur voiture (their car)
masculine and feminine plural leurs (their) leurs amis (their friends)

When ma, ta, and sa precede a noun starting with a vowel or a mute -h, they change to mon, ton, and son for pronunciation’s sake. Here are some examples:

Ma amie (my [female] friend) must change to mon amie.
Ta éducation (your education [which is always feminine]) must change to ton éducation.
Sa humeur (his/her mood) changes to son humeur.

Sometimes you need to name the owner of an object and you can’t use just the possessive adjective like this: son chien (his dog). If you need to say whose dog it is specifically, you use a different sentence structure in French: Le chien de Paul (Paul’s dog).

Now it’s clear! The English formula [owner + s + object owned] is actually flipped around in French: [definite article + object owned + de (of) + owner]. Here are some examples:

l’ami de ma fille (my daughter’s friend)
les enfants des Dupont (the Duponts’ children)

Sometimes you need to use a definite article when you’re naming an object’s owner, such as le chien de la voisine (the dog of the (female) neighbor). Keep in mind that de + le (of the) contracts into du, and de + les (of the) contracts into des.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Véronique Mazet has a doctorate in French from the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of two successful grammar books. She currently teaches French at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas.

This article can be found in the category: