Possessive adjectives or les adjectifs possessifs are used to indicate whom or to what a noun belongs to. Like any other type of adjective, they modify the noun. French adjectives in general, must be modified so that they agree with the gender and quantity of the noun that they describe.
In addition to possession, in French, you also use possessive adjectives to introduce someone or to talk about a specific part of the body. There are also specific rules to use adjectives before nouns
French possessive adjectives
In English, the possessive adjective is modified to indicate the gender and quantity of the noun, for example, “our” or her.” In French, the adjectif possessif is modified according to the noun that it is describing.
French possessive adjectives
|your(s) [plural, formal]
There are so many different countries that speak French and it is no surprise that every country has adapted the language to fit their own use and hence, have their own expressions and ways of speaking.
Learn more about the nuances in French spoken around the globe, From Martinique to Montreal: French around the world.
Rules of possessive adjectives
There are a few rules to remember when you use the adjectif possessif. Let’s have a look at those.
1. Possessive adjectives and nouns
The first thing to remember is that possessive adjectives come before the noun that they describe. They also have to agree with the noun that they describe, not with the person who owns the noun.
For example, leur can be used to mean their/theirs (masculine group), their/theirs (feminine group), or their/theirs (mixed masculine and feminine group). But, it can only be used with a plural noun.
In addition to learning these rules, a great way to learn French is by practicing your pronunciation and speaking skills as well! Check out our French pronunciation guide.
2. Possessive adjectives indicate possession
As you know, possessive adjectives are meant to indicate possession.
J'adore sa robe. (I love her dress)
Voici mon numéro de téléphone. (Here is my phone number.)
Veuillez écrire nos informations. (Please write down our information.)
3. Possessive adjectives with plural nouns
When referring to multiple nouns or things, there are fixed plural adjectives. This does not change according to the gender.
ma chemise (my shirt)
mes chemises (my shirts)
sa chemise (his/her chemise)
ses chemises (his/her shirts)
leurs chemises (their shirts)
The noun chemise is feminine, but in plural form, the adjective in front of the word becomes leurs, which is masculine/feminine plural for “their.”
4. Possessive adjectives when introducing someone
When you want to introduce someone, you need to use the adjectif possessif to do so.
Permettez-moi de vous présenter ma sœur, Susan. (Allow me to introduce my sister, Susan.)
Ils ont adopté leur chien ensemble. (They adopted their dog together.)
5. Possessive adjectives with a list of nouns
In a list of nouns, as you would have read with other grammar rules in French, each noun needs to have its own adjectif possessif in front of it.
C'est mon sac, ma gomme et mon crayon. (This is my bag, eraser and pencil.)
French possessive adjectives: Exceptions
Like with all French grammar rules, there are a few exceptions to make note of and to memorize.
1. Possessive adjectives before a feminine noun beginning with a vowel
Just like in English, when you use “an” before a word that starts with a vowel, and “a’ before a word that starts with a consonant, you need to use the appropriate adjective for words that start with a vowel.
You shouldn’t write ma amie, but mon amie, even though the noun here (friend) refers to a female friend. You need to use the masculine singular possessive adjective.
Son horloge est très vieille. (Her clock is very old)
2. When referring to body parts
When you speak about body parts, you do not use possessive adjectives in French. Instead, you should use pronominal verbs.
Je me suis foulé la jambe en jouant au football. (I sprained my leg while playing football) Elle se brosse les dents. (She is brushing her teeth.)
Wrapping up with possessive adjectives
French possessive adjectives or les adjectifs possessifs are easier to learn than they look.
The simplest way to remember which possessive adjectives to use is by memorizing those noun genders! And remember that the possessive adjective you use before the noun depends on its gender and quantity.
Once you have that down, picking out the right possessive adjective in French should become second nature.
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