The possessive adjectives in French are: mon/ma/mes (my); ton/ta/tes (your); son/sa/ses (his/her/its); notre/nos (our); votre/vos (your); and leur/leurs (their).
That might seem like a lot, but it’s because French possessive adjectives have to agree in number and sometimes gender, with the thing that is owned.
Let’s learn more about possessive adjectives in French.
What are the French possessive adjectives?
A possessive adjective is a word that’s used to indicate ownership of something. In keeping with the “adjective” moniker, you could say they’re words that describe something as being owned by someone/something.
Unlike in English, possessive adjectives in French have to agree in number and sometimes gender, with the thing that is owned. Some nouns/pronouns have possessive adjective forms that are either singular or plural, while others also have singular possessive adjectives for each gender.
Here are the French possessive adjectives, in a handy chart form:
|mon, ma, mes
|tu (informal, singular you)
|ton, ta, tes
|son, sa, ses
|vous (formal and/or plural you)
How do you use French possessive adjectives?
Once you get past that pesky issue of agreement, French possessive adjectives are easy to use, since they’re used pretty much the same way as they are in English.
This means that a French possessive adjective will precede the noun that is owned. For instance, in English you’d say “my book”; in French you’d say mon livre.
Here’s how it would look in a sentence: Où est mon livre ? (Where is my book?)
Of course, there is one big difference between possessive adjectives in English and possessive adjectives in French: agreement.
As a general rule, while English possessive adjectives only indicate the person/people/thing(s) that own something, French possessive adjectives to do this and also have to agree in number and, in some cases, gender, with the thing that is owned.
For instance, in our example phrase mon livre, the possessive adjective mon indicates that the person speaking is je (I). And because livre is a singular, masculine word, the singular, masculine form of the possessive adjective that goes with je – mon – is used.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at this in the next section!
The rules of French possessive adjective agreement
Using French possessive adjectives isn’t hard if you know these essential rules — and their exceptions.
The most important French possessive adjective rule
The number one, most important rule of using French possessive adjectives is to remember that the possessive adjective:
- indicates who owns the object, but also
- must agree in number and, when applicable, gender, with the object being owned.
For example, let’s look at the phrase ton chaton (your kitten).
In French, the possessive adjective being used indicates who owns the kitten, so we know here that the kitten is owned by you (Lucky you!). But the possessive adjective also has to agree with chaton.
We know that we’re talking about you, tu (We’ll use the familiar form of “you”, since we’d like to think of you as a friend). So that means we have three options for a possessive adjective: ton (singular, masculine); ta (singular, feminine); or tes (plural). Chaton is singular, so we won’t use tes. And since chaton is masculine, we have to use ton.
Keep in mind that your gender doesn’t matter; the agreement is with the thing that is owned.
So you would never see ta chaton, even if you, the owner of the kitten, are a female.
The 2 exceptions to the rule
EXCEPTION 1: All French possessive adjectives have a singular and a plural form. But not all French possessive adjectives have masculine and feminine forms.
The French possessive adjectives that have masculine and feminine singular forms are: je, tu, and il/elle/on.
|Masculine poss. adj.
|Feminine poss. adj.
|Plural poss. adj.
All others only have a singular and plural form.
This may seem confusing, annoying, or inconsistent, but personally, I see it as a sort of freebie. If I have to use the following possessive adjectives, I only have to worry about whether or not what’s owned is singular or plural. Génial ! (Cool!):
|Singular possessive adjective
|Plural possessive adjective
EXCEPTION 2: When a word begins with a vowel and there’s a choice between a masculine or feminine singular possessive adjective, sound trumps all!
If a word begins with a vowel sound, the masculine form will always be used, since the French language has an aversion to putting two vowel sounds together.
For instance, amie (female friend/girlfriend) is a feminine word. But when it’s paired with a possessive adjective, the option that ends in a consonant will always be used, so as to avoid the double vowel-sound combo that’s so horrible to French ears. So that’s why you’ll always see or hear mon amie, ton amie, and son amie, and NEVER ma amie, ta amie, or sa amie, even though the amie in question is a girl.
Feminine words that are used with a singular, masculine possessive adjective for reasons of sound are still considered feminine; this is just a pronunciation issue. So if you put an adjective after amie, it will have to be in its feminine form. For example: mon amie américaine.
And also keep in mind that if you use an adjective beginning with a consonant that precedes the word, it breaks the vowel rule, so you’d then go back to using the feminine possessive adjective. For example, mon amie would become ma meilleure amie (my best friend).
Of course, when you’re using a possessive adjective that doesn’t have a masculine or feminine form, you don’t have to worry about this. It will just be the same as always: notre amie, votre amie, leur amie.
The same goes for the plural form. Since there will be a liaison with the “s” sound, it’s all good: mes amies, tes amies, ses amies, nos amies, vos amies, leurs amies.
And that brings us to our next, and last major French possessive adjectives rule….
Plural possessive adjectives work for both masculine and feminine forms.
There is no feminine or masculine form of plural possessive adjectives in French; there’s just one that works for everything.
For instance, if you’re talking about multiple kittens, the possessive adjective would stay the same in English: my kitten vs my kittens; your kitten vs your kittens, etc. But in French, plural objects must be paired with a plural possessive adjective: mes chatons, tes chatons, etc.
Remember that possessive adjectives agree with what’s owned
Again, the most important overall thing to remember about French possessive adjectives is that they change based on what’s owned, NOT on the owner. This can be hard for speakers of some other languages, very much including English, to wrap our minds around.
So, whether you see mon, ma, or mes, it’s always referring to “I”. Or when you see ton, ta, or tes, it’s always talking about the same “you” of the same gender – nothing has changed concerning the owner, just the gender and/or number of what’s owned.
J’aime mon travail, ma famille, et mes amis. (I love my job, my family, and my friends.)
Il cherche son livre, sa calculatrice, et ses cahiers. (He’s looking for his book, his calculator, and his notebooks.)
Elles amènent leur bébé et leurs chiens au parc chaque après-midi. (They bring their baby and their dogs to the park every afternoon.)
As you can see, the possessive adjective changes depending on what’s owned, but the subject stays the same. This means that if you see something like ses livres, you can tell that we’re talking about a third-person singular subject, but we can’t tell if it’s a man, woman, object, etc.
What’s the difference between a possessive adjective and a possessive pronoun?
Our article is about the French possessive adjectives. These are words that designate a person/thing’s ownership.
On the other hand, French possessive pronouns are words that can entirely replace something and show it as simply an owned object or idea.
For instance, the phrase mon livre (my book) uses the possessive adjective mon (my). The phrase C’est le mien (It’s/That’s/This is mine) uses the French possessive pronoun le mien (mine).
How can I practice using French possessive adjectives?
An easy way to practice using French possessive adjectives is to look around you and try to match a possessive adjective with the different things you see. You can use the possessive adjectives chart in this article to help you check your answers.
And of course, learning to use these adjectives in the context of real-life conversations is an excellent way to get familiar with the way they are used, so give French Together a try if you haven’t already!