The French possessive pronouns are: le mien/la mienne/les miens/les miennes (mine); le tien/la tienne/les tiens/les tiennes (yours); le sien/la sien/les siens/les siennes (his/hers/its); le nôtre/la nôtre/les nôtres (ours); le vôtre/la vôtre/les vôtres (yours); and le leur/la leur/les leurs (theirs).
In addition to indicating who owns something, French possessive pronouns have to agree in number and, in most cases, gender, with what is owned.
But while that may seem a little complicated, the good news is they’re pretty easy to use, especially the more you hear, read, and use them.
Let’s learn all about French possessive pronouns.
What are the French possessive pronouns?
A possessive pronoun is a word or words that replace(s) a possessive adjective and the thing that is owned.
For instance, in English, “his house” could be replaced with “his” in a sentence like: “It’s his.”
In French, the possessive pronoun is paired with an article or in some cases a preposition. So, sa maison (his house) would be replaced by la sienne (his).
As in English, you’ll often see French possessive pronouns used in statements like this: C’est la sienne. (It’s his.)
Unlike in English, French possessive pronouns have to not only indicate the owner, but also agree in number and sometimes gender with what is owned. That’s why la sienne is feminine even though the owner in our example is a he; it has to agree in number and gender with what is owned – in this case, a house (une maison).
Some French possessive pronouns can be either singular or plural. All French possessive pronouns have a masculine and feminine singular form (although in some cases only the article changes). But not all French possessive pronouns have a masculine and feminine plural form.
Here are the French possessive pronouns, in a handy chart form:
|le mein/la mienne/les miens/les miennes
|tu (informal, singular you)
|le tien/la tienne/les tiens/les tiennes
|le sien/la sien/les siens/les siennes
|le nôtre/la nôtre/les nôtres
|vous (formal and/or plural you)
|le vôtre/la vôtre/les vôtres
|le leur/la leur/les leurs
How do you use French possessive pronouns?
The good news about French possessive pronouns is that while they may look different from English possessive pronouns, they’re basically used the same way.
For instance, if you want to say “That’s mine” in French, it would be C’est le mien or C’est la mienne (depending on the gender of what’s owned).
Another common way possessive pronouns are used in both languages is in a sentence like “Her apartment is bigger than theirs”: Son appartement est plus grand que le leur.
So, if you speak English (and since you’re reading this, you probably do!), the good news is you basically know how to use French possessive pronouns.
But there is something that makes them a bit more complicated than English possessive pronouns: agreement.
The rules of French possessive pronoun agreement
When it comes to French possessive pronoun agreement, this is the most important thing to keep in mind:
French possessive pronouns INDICATE the owner, but AGREE in number and (in most cases) gender, with what is owned.
So for instance, say you’re at a party and someone asks, Il est à qui, ce manteau ? (Whose coat is this?). If it’s yours, you’d reply, C’est le mien. (It’s mine).
You used mien in your answer because that’s the first-person possessive pronoun (i.e. it goes with je (I)). But your gender doesn’t matter; in this case, mien is masculine because manteau (coat) is a singular, masculine word. The only thing that indicates the owner is the fact that mien refers to the first-person singular (je).
Let’s try another example. Imagine someone asks, Elle est à qui, cette valise ? (Whose suitcase is this?). You want to tell them that the suitcase belongs to your friend Jean-Luc – so, “It’s his”. How would you say that?
If you guessed C’est la sienne, you’re right!
The third-person possessive pronoun (goes with il/elle/on) is used because you’re referring to Jean-Luc. But the feminine version of sien is used because the thing that is owned is une valise – a singular, feminine object.
By the way, since this is a typical structure you’ll use with possessive pronouns, remember that C’est means “It’s/That’s/ This is”. Its plural version is Ce sont (These/Those are).
Let’s try another example. The same person points to a group of suitcases and asks, Et ses valises sont a qui ? (“And who do these suitcases belong to?”). You know that they belong to a man standing to your left. So you want to say “They’re his.” How would you say that?
The answer is Ce sont les siennes.
In this case, we’re still using the third-person pronoun. This time it’s to indicate the man standing to your left. But since we’re talking about multiple suitcases, we have to use the version of that pronoun that matches with plural feminine nouns – so, les siennes.
Okay, let’s try one more. Now, the person is asking C’est à qui, cette valise ? again (As you may have noticed, there are several, slightly different ways to ask “Whose __ is this?” in French). This time, you know it belongs to your friend Marie. So you want to say “It’s hers.” How would you do that?
The answer is the same as it was for Jean-Luc: C’est la sienne. Remember that the owner’s gender doesn’t affect the possessive pronoun; rather, it depends on what’s owned. In this case, since la valise is always a feminine singular noun, it would always take la sienne if you’re using a third-person possessive pronoun, regardless of the gender of the owner.
A good way to keep this possessive pronoun agreement rule in mind is thinking about one of the most common ways to say “Cheers” in French: À la vôtre, or, with a close friend or family member, À la tienne. In both of these cases, the feminine form of the possessive pronoun is used, because it’s referring to la santé (health), a feminine, singular word.
Now that you’ve got this down, there’s one more major rule of French possessive pronoun agreement:
Not all French possessive pronouns have a masculine and feminine plural form.
The French possessive pronouns that have masculine and feminine forms in both the singular and plural are those that go with je, tu, and il/elle/on.
|Masculine singular possessive pronoun
|Feminine singular possessive pronoun
|Masculine plural possessivepronoun
|Feminine plural possessive pronoun
All other French possessive pronouns only have one plural form that works with all words:
|Masculine singular possessive pronoun
|Feminine singular possessive pronoun
|Plural possessive pronoun
Additionally, as you may have noticed, for the possessive pronouns that go with nous, vous, and ils/elles (or any proper nouns (names, etc.) that are their equivalents) only the article changes to indicate gender in the singular form, and the article and an “s” at the end is the only change that occurs in their plural version.
The good news is, that makes these possessive pronouns a lot easier to use!
Just don’t forget the accent circonflexe that will always be above nôtre(s) and vôtre(s). This is used to differentiate this word from notre (our) and votre (your), to avoid any possible confusion.
With all of this in mind, here are some examples of sentences with French possessive pronouns:
Voici le tien et voila les siens. (Here’s yours and there are his.)
C’est ton verre ou le mien ? (Is this your glass or mine?)
Je pense que leur vie est mille fois plus difficile que la mienne. (I think their life is a thousand times harder than mine.)
Leurs coutumes sont différents des nôtres. (Their customs are different from ours.)
How to use French possessive pronouns with prepositions
French possessive pronouns are sometimes used with prepositions. In most cases, this involves simply putting the preposition before the possessive pronoun – for example: ta main dans la mienne (your hand in mine).
But when using two of the most common French prepositions, à and de, you’ll have to combine them with a possessive pronoun’s masculine or plural article.
For example: Si tu as envie de baguette, tu peux prendre une part de la mienne. (If you want some baguette, you can have a piece of mine.) In this sentence, the preposition de is paired with the feminine article la. Following French grammar rules, the two words stay separate: de la.
But if the article is masculine or plural, it’s a different story: Elle a oublié ses gants, alors je lui ai prêté une paire des miennes. (She forgot her gloves, so I lent her a pair of mine.)
According to the rules of French grammar, de and les have to be blended together. So, de + les miennes becomes des miennes.
Here’s another example: Comme ses chiens n’aiment pas ces jouets, il les a donné aux nôtres. (Since his dogs don’t like these toys, he gave them to ours.)
With these rules in mind, can you guess the correct way to write à + le mien and de with le nôtre?
That would be: au mien or du nôtre.
How about a plural example? Can you guess what à + les siens would be?
The answer is aux siens. Did you guess right?
What’s the difference between a possessive pronoun and a possessive adjective?
Our article is about the French possessive pronouns. Possessive pronouns replace (a) possessive adjective(s) and what is owned.
For instance, I could say son chat (his cat) or I could replace that with the possessive pronoun le sien (his). Ex: Le chat dans cette pub ressemble au sien. (The cat in this commercial looks like his.)
Feel free to check out our separate article to learn more about French possessive adjectives.
Is there an alternative to French possessive pronouns?
It’s important to know how to use possessive pronouns in French if you want to truly master the language. So you should learn them. And believe me, it will get easier the more you use and practice them.
But that said, if early on in your learning journey you find yourself in a conversation with a French person and your mind goes blank when it comes to the possessive pronoun, there is a simpler alternative.
In some cases, you can usually replace a possessive pronoun with the structure à + disjunctive pronoun.
You’ve probably noticed a similar structure in a common question that’s often answered with a possessive pronoun: C’est à qui ?
A disjunctive pronoun is a pronoun that’s usually used for emphasis. In French, these are: moi, toi, elle/lui, nous, vous, eux/elles.
So for instance, if someone asks Il est à qui ce sac ? (Whose bag is this?) or, more commonly in modern, informal spoken French: C’est à qui ce sac ?, you could say, C’est le mien. (It’s mine.) Or you could say C’est à moi. Or, if you want to be more precise about the gender, Il est à moi.
Note that you could use Elle est à moi if what’s owned is feminine, or Ils sont à moi if what’s owned is masculine and plural; and Elles sont à moi if what’s owned is feminine and plural.
The difference between using the possessive pronoun and à + disjunctive pronoun is that à + disjunctive pronoun is generally less formal.
In many cases, like in our example, this won’t matter – in fact, in an everyday informal French conversation, using à + disjunctive pronoun might even be the better choice. But if you’re in a formal, academic, or professional setting, or if you want to sound a bit more professional or intelligent, using the possessive pronoun is the better choice.
And keep in mind that replacing a possessive pronoun with à + disjunctive pronoun won’t work for every type of sentence.
For example, you can’t do this with a structure like: Cette maison est jolie mais je préfère la nôtre. (This house is pretty but I prefer ours.)
So, learning to use the possessive pronoun is still pretty important.
How can I practice using French possessive pronouns?
Like just about anything in a foreign language, using possessive pronouns will get easier the more you’re exposed to them and practice using them. Trust me: As complicated as they might seem, I’ve gotten so used to using French possessive pronouns that it was actually hard to explain some of the rules! They’ve become instinctive to me, and I know that will be the case for you, too. If you practice, possessive pronouns will come naturally after a while.
An easy way to practice using French possessive pronouns is to look around you and try to match a possessive pronoun with the different things you see. For instance, if you see your phone, you could say le mien. You can use the possessive adjectives chart in this article to help you check your answers.
And of course, watching, reading, and listening to French is an excellent way to get familiar with how French possessive pronouns are used.
I hope this article has helped you understand and feel more at ease with French possessive pronouns. If you want to practice using them in the context of real-life conversations, give French Together a try!