What are possessive adjectives in Spanish? Most simply put, possessive adjectives in Spanish are the Spanish equivalents of words like "my," "your," "his, "mine," etc. that indicate ownership or possession. There are two types of Spanish possessive adjectives: long form and short form. In the first part of this lesson, we will deal with how to use short form possessive adjectives in Spanish.
Let's take a look at the short form Spanish possessive adjectives and how they correspond to the personal pronouns in Spanish:
Yo: mi, mis (my)
Tú: tu, tus (your)
Él/ella/usted: su, sus (his, her, its, your)
Nosotros/nosotras: nuestro, nuestros, nuestra, nuestras (our)
Vosotros/vosotras: vuestro, vuestros, vuestra, vuestras (plural informal "your")
Ellos/ellas/ustedes: su, sus (their/plural "your")
What did you notice at first glance? Allow us to point out a couple of our observations:
1. The Spanish possessive adjectives that correspond to nosotros/nosotras (masculine and feminine "we") and vosotros/vosotras (masculine and feminine plural, informal "you") look a bit more complicated because there are more forms, four rather than two. This is because the forms of these Spanish possessive adjectives are affected by the genders of the nouns they modify, whereas the others are not.
2. The words su and sus in Spanish correspond to a lot of personal pronouns (él, ella, usted, ellos, ellas, and ustedes) and can thus mean a lot of different things ("his," "her," "its," singular and plural "your," and "their"). We'll help you to learn to distinguish their meanings in context.
3. Regardless of whether a personal pronoun is singular (e.g. yo, tú, etc.) or plural (e.g. ellos, ustedes, etc.), they all have singular and plural possessive adjective forms. This is because, whether a Spanish possessive adjective is singular or plural or masculine or feminine has nothing to do with the number or gender of the personal pronoun it is associated with and everything to do with the number and gender of the noun it modifies.
Keeping these points in mind, let's take a closer look at each of the possessive adjectives in Spanish, as well as some examples from our Yabla Spanish video library.
Generally speaking, Spanish adjectives agree with the noun they modify in terms of number and gender. That said, the "good news" about the Spanish possessive adjectives for "my," mi and mis, is that they remain the same regardless of a noun's gender. For both masculine and feminine nouns, then, the singular form mi should be used for singular nouns, while the plural form mis should accompany plural nouns. Let's look:
A mi lado, tengo a mi amigo, Xavi,
Beside me, I have my friend, Xavi,Play Caption
nos encontramos con mi amiga, la rana.
we ran into my friend, the frog.Play Caption
Hoy os voy a hablar de mis amigos felinos, que también son mis vecinos.
Today, I'm going to talk to you about my feline friends who are also my neighbors.
Captions 3-4, Fermín y los gatos Mis gatas vecinasPlay Caption
Los viernes, juego al fútbol con mis amigas.
On Fridays, I play soccer with my friends.
Caption 21, Ariana Mi SemanaPlay Caption
As you can see, the singular Spanish possessive adjective mi is used for both the masculine and feminine forms of the noun amigo/a, while the plural Spanish possessive adjective mis is used for the plural masculine and feminine nouns, amigos and amigas. Pretty simple, right?
The short form Spanish possessive adjectives tu and tus, which mean "your" when addressing someone informally, are similarly simplistic: tu is utilized for singular nouns, while tus is used for plural nouns, regardless of gender. Let's see some examples with tu and tus:
¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de tu casa?
What is it that you like the most about your house?Play Caption
Déjame saber en tus comentarios
Let me know in your comments
Caption 59, Ana Carolina Conjugaciones verbalesPlay Caption
Although the noun casa is feminine, the same Spanish possessive adjective, tu, would also be used for masculine singular nouns (tu coche = your car, etc.). In turn, while the word tus appears with the masculine plural noun comentarios in this example, the very same possessive adjective would be used for feminine plural nouns, e.g. tus manzanas (your apples).
In contrast to mi/s and tu/s, the Spanish possessive adjectives for "our" do change in accordance with both a noun's number and gender. Let's take a look at the masculine/feminine and singular/plural forms of the nouns hijo (boy), hija (girl), etc. with their corresponding forms of the Spanish possessive adjective nuestro:
Nuestro hijo (our son)
Nuestros hijos (our sons)
Nuestra hija (our daughter)
Nuestras hijas (our daughters)
As you can see, this Spanish possessive adjective takes the ending -o for masculine singular nouns, -os for masculine plural nouns, -a for feminine singular nouns, and -as for feminine plural nouns. Let's view a couple of examples from Yabla's video library:
Para nuestro primer experimento utilizaremos algo que jamás creíamos que podría faltar en nuestros hogares:
For our first experiment, we'll use something we never thought could be lacking in our homes:
Captions 11-13, Ana Carolina GérmenesPlay Caption
¿Qué había sucedido con nuestra amistad, mmm? ¿Desde cuándo la mujer empezó a gobernar nuestras vidas?
What had happened to our friendship, hmm? Since when did women start to govern our lives?
Captions 17-18, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 8 - Part 3Play Caption
We can see in these examples all four versions of the Spanish possessive adjective for "we," all of which agree with the nouns they modify in terms of both number and gender.
If you take the Spanish possessive adjectives for "we" (nosotros, etc.) and replace the "n" with a "v," you have the possessive adjectives in Spanish that mean "your" when addressing more than one person in a less formal situation. This form corresponds to the Spanish personal pronouns vosotros/as, which are primarily used in Spain. Let's take a look:
Vuestro hijo (your son)
Vuestros hijos (your sons)
Vuestra hija (your daughter)
Vuestras hijas (your daughters)
Let's examine a couple of video excerpts:
y además podéis aprovechar para dar vuestra opinión
and you can also take the opportunity to give your opinion
Caption 36, La cocina de María Tortilla de patatasPlay Caption
Pero antes vamos a ver a vuestros amigos,
But beforehand we're going to see your friends,Play Caption
The "good news," once again, about su in Spanish and sus in Spanish is that there are only two forms, singular and plural, that modify both masculine and feminine nouns. The "bad news," though, at least in terms of their initial challenge for native English speakers, is that these possessive adjectives in Spanish can mean many different things depending on their contexts. Having said that, let's take a look at su in Spanish and sus in Spanish, which can mean either "his," "her," "its," "your" (in the case of either one or more than one person), or "their."
Es su coche (It's his car).
Son sus coches. (They are his cars).
Es su motocicleta (It's his motorcycle).
Son sus motocicletas. (They are his motorcycles).
Es su coche (It's her car).
Son sus coches (They are her cars).
Es su motocicleta (It's her motorcycle).
Son sus motocicletas (They are her motorcycles).
Your (formal, one person):
Es su coche (It's your car).
Es su motocicleta (It's your motorcycle).
Son sus coches (They are your cars).
Son sus motocicletas (They are your motorcycles).
Your (more than one person):
Es su coche (It's your (guys') car).
Es su motocicleta (It's your (guys') motorcycle).
Son sus coches (They are your (guys') cars).
Son sus motocicletas (They are your (guys') motorcycles).
Es su coche (It's their car).
Es su motocicleta (It's their motorcycle).
Son sus coches (They are their cars).
Son sus motocicletas (They are their motorcycles).
Wait, what?! You might notice that the four sentences under each English possessive adjective category are all the same! And yet, their translations are totally different. So, how would we decipher the intended meaning of su in Spanish or sus in Spanish when these two possessives in Spanish can mean so many things? As always, context is key! Let's take a look at some examples to illuminate this:
El artista más importante es Gaudí. Hoy voy a visitar una de sus obras más conocidas, la Sagrada Familia.
The most important artist is Gaudi. Today I'm going to visit one of his most well-known works, the Sagrada Familia [Sacred Family].
Captions 45-47, Ariana EspañaPlay Caption
Since the previous sentence mentions the artist Gaudi, it is pretty obvious that sus in this context means "his," referring to "his works." And, just to reiterate, the plural form sus must be used here since obras is a plural noun, in spite of the fact that Gaudi is just one person since one person can own more than one thing, while more than one person can own just one thing (think nuestra casa). Let's take a look at a couple of additional examples of su/s in Spanish:
por ejemplo, para que usted practique con su novia, Cata.
for example for you to practice with your girlfriend, Cata.
Caption 17, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 2 - Part 6Play Caption
Here, the word usted tips us off that the speaker means "your girlfriend," as su in Spanish can mean "your" in the formal style of address. And, even in the absence of that explicit word, were someone to generally address you with the usted form, you would take for granted that they meant "you" when utilizing su in Spanish or sus in Spanish. Let's see one more:
Desde sus inicios, el Centro Hispano de Todos los Santos se ha dedicado a sembrar esperanza.
Since its beginnings, the Centro Hispano de Todos los Santos [All Saints Hispanic Center] has been dedicated to sowing hope.
Captions 1-2, Transformación EstéticaPlay Caption
In this example, sus in Spanish has been translated as "its" since the inicios "belong to" an inanimate object: the All Saints Hispanic Center.
Although context can usually provide us with good clues about the meaning of su in Spanish or sus in Spanish, there are ambiguous cases that may require clarification. In a story or conversation involving both males and females, for example, a reference to su casa might cause confusion as to whose house it actually is. In such cases, it might be preferable to, in lieu of a Spanish possessive adjective, employ the preposition de ("of" or "belonging to") plus a personal pronoun (ella, usted, etc.) for the sake of clarity, as in the following example:
no es un problema de la gente de la ciudad, es un problema personal de usted conmigo.
it's not a problem of the people of the city, it's your personal problem with me.
Caption 15, Yago 7 Encuentros - Part 1Play Caption
Since, had the speaker said su problema personal, that could theoretically refer to either la gente de la ciudad (and thus be translated as "their personal problem with me") or the person to whom he is speaking, it was a safer bet to go with de usted.
We hope that this lesson has helped you to better understand how to use possessive adjectives in Spanish in their short form. For more information on short form possessive adjectives in Spanish, be sure to check out Adjetivos posesivos- Part 2 from the series Lecciones con Carolina, which deals with agreement, as well as this useful lesson from El Aula Azul entitled La posesión- Part 1. And, as always, no se olviden de dejarnos sus sugerencias y comentarios (don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments).