Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns: Italian Grammar Lesson 29

Key Takeaways

Dive into the world of Italian possessive adjectives and pronouns! This guide will have you mastering the art of expressing ownership in Italian, from “my” to “theirs,” with ease and confidence. ✨

  • Gender and Number Agreement: Italian possessive adjectives agree in gender and number with the item owned, not the owner, unlike English.
  • Forms of Possessive Adjectives: Each possessive adjective has four forms: masculine singular, feminine singular, masculine plural, and feminine plural. The term “loro” remains unchanged.
  • Usage with Definite Articles: Possessive adjectives are almost always used with definite articles (il, la, lo, i, gli, le) except for singular family relations.
  • Possessive Pronouns: Italian possessive pronouns are the same as possessive adjectives and can be used flexibly with or without definite articles.
  • Sentence Placement: Italian possessive adjectives typically precede the noun they modify but can follow it for emphasis or clarification.

Quick facts

What are Italian possessive adjectives?

Italian possessive adjectives are words like mio and tuo, used to indicate ownership, similar to my, your, his, her, its, our, and their in English.

How do Italian possessive adjectives agree with nouns?

Possessive adjectives in Italian must match the gender and number of the noun they refer to, not the possessor.

When do you use definite articles with possessive adjectives?

Generally, possessive adjectives in Italian are used with definite articles like il, la, lo, i, gli, le.

Are there exceptions to using definite articles with possessive adjectives?

Yes, when referring to singular blood relatives, articles are omitted (e.g., mio fratello).

How do you say "my hat" and "my hats" in Italian?

"My hat" is il mio cappello, and "my hats" is i miei cappelli, reflecting gender and number agreement.

How do you translate "Our friend is not coming" using possessive adjectives?

"Our friend is not coming" translates to Il nostro amico non viene, using the correct form for 'our' in masculine singular.

What is the Italian possessive adjective for "your" (informal)?

The informal possessive adjective for "your" is tuo (masculine singular), tua (feminine singular), tuoi (masculine plural), and tue (feminine plural).

How do you express "Their cousins live in Brussels" in Italian?

"Their cousins live in Brussels" is I loro cugini vivono a Bruxelles, using the appropriate possessive adjective loro.

What are Italian possessive pronouns and how are they similar to possessive adjectives?

Italian possessive pronouns, like mio and tuo, are identical to possessive adjectives and used to replace nouns to avoid repetition.

How do possessive pronouns function in Italian sentences?

Possessive pronouns replace nouns to avoid repetition, such as Questa borsa è mia (This bag is mine) and not repeating the noun 'bag'.

My Thoughts

Possessive Adjectives

Italian Possessive Adjectives

The term possessive adjectives (aggettivi possessivi) refers to those grammatical structures that indicate possession. English possessive adjectives are “my, your, her, his, its, our, and their”.

  • Her jacket is so cool!
  • Our friend is not coming.

Italian possessive adjectives behave differently from English ones, and this is why I believe it is important that you understand their main characteristic: unlike English, they agree in gender and number with the item that is owned, and not with the owner.

This is why, as with all adjectives, each Italian possessive adjective has four different forms: masculine singular, feminine singular, masculine plural, and feminine plural.

Masculine Singular Feminine Singular Masculine Plural Feminine Plural
io mio mia miei mie
tu tuo tua tuoi tue
lui/lei/Lei suo sua suoi sue
noi nostro nostra nostri nostre
voi vostro vostra vostri vostre
loro loro loro loro loro

As you can see “loro” never changes.

For instance, cappello (hat) is masculine, so you must use the masculine possessive adjective regardless of the gender of the owner. This distinction is evident in the third person singular only, and might, sometimes, make it hard to understand the gender of the owner unless it is specified.

Questo è il cappello di Laura – è il suo cappello.

This is Laura’s hat – it is her hat.

How to use Italian Possessive Adjectives

As I mentioned before, we use possessive adjectives to talk about possession or ownership. As you might have noticed already, they are almost always used with a definite article (il, la, lo, i, gli, le). This is because they are and, therefore, behave as actual adjectives.

La mia bici è rossa.

My bike is red.

I suoi amici sono inglesi?

Are his/her friends English?

Le vostre pizze sono pronte.

Your pizzas are ready.

The only situations where we do not use an article with a possessive adjective is when we refer to a singular family relations.

Mio fratello è uscito.

My brother went out.

Mi ha chiamato tua mamma.

Your mom called me.

Sua cugina abita a Roma.

His/her cousin lives in Rome.

However, a definite article is used when we refer to plural family relations or any type of family relation where “loro” is the owner.

I loro cugini vivono a Bruxelles.

Their cousins live in Bruxelles.

I miei genitori sono Olandesi.

My parents are from the Netherlands.

Il loro fratello studia Italiano.

Their brother studies Italian.

🔊
Quel cane è tuo.

Possessive Pronouns

Italian Possessive Pronouns

Now that you know what Italian possessive adjectives are, I can introduce you to Italian possessive pronouns, the equivalent in English to “mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, yours and theirs”.

  • This is mine!
  • I lost my phone, can you lend me yours?

You probably are familiar with the linguistic term “pronoun“: Pronouns are words that substitute a noun. They are, therefore, used to not repeat a noun. Italian has several different types of pronouns, but here I will focus on possessive pronouns only.

Learn more about personal pronouns, direct pronouns, and indirect pronouns in Italian!

Let me give you good news: If possessive pronouns are easy enough in English, they are even easier in Italian… They are exactly the same as possessive adjectives!

Masculine Singular Feminine Singular Masculine Plural Feminine Plural
mine mio mia miei mie
yours (for tu) tuo tua tuoi tue
his, hers, its suo sua suoi sue
ours nostro nostra nostri nostre
yours (for voi) vostro vostra vostri vostre
theirs loro loro loro loro

How to use Possessive Pronouns

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As mentioned before, we use possessive pronouns to replace a noun so that we do not repeat it in a sentence. Unlike possessive adjective that almost always require an article, Italian possessive pronouns are very flexible and can be used in both ways.

Questa borsa è mia, quella è sua. / Questa è la mia, quella è la sua.

This bag is mine, that one is hers.

I libri sono nostri, non vostri. / Questi libri sono i nostri, non i vostri.

The books are ours, they are not yours!

🔊
Il suo cane è nero.

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Placement in the Sentence

Although normal Italian adjectives usually follow the noun they modify, Italian possessive adjectives typically precede it. However, just like with other adjectives, Italian allows some flexibility.

In fact, in order to emphasize possession or to clarify to whom the object belongs, especially in a conversation with multiple possible referents, Italians might place the possessive adjective after the noun.

La macchina sua.

The car of his/hers.

Here, the post-nominal adjective emphasizes that the car belongs to him/her, not to someone else mentioned in the conversation.

Also, when a noun is possessed by more than one person and each possessor is indicated separately, Italian requires the possessive adjective for each noun.

La mia borsa e la tua.

My bag and yours.

Il mio cane e il loro.

My dog and theirs.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

FAQs

What are possessive adjectives?

Are adjectives for referring to people and their possessions. In English they are equivalent of my, your, her, his, its, our, and their.

How to use possessive adjectives?

We use possessive adjectives to talk about possession or ownership. In Italian, they must agree in gender and number with the noun possessed and not with the possessor. And they are almost always used with a definite article (il, la, lo, i, gli, le) unless when talking about a blood relative in the singular.

What are possessive pronouns?

Possessive pronouns replace a noun and are the equivalent in English to mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, yours and theirs.

When to use possessive pronouns?

For replacing a noun and they are exactly the same as possessive adjectives.

Italian word of the day
capivo
Example
Non capivo più niente dal sonno.
I was so tired that I couldn’t think.
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