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Possessive (plural, also possessive ; singular: [the] possessive or possessive ; borrowed from Latin ) are words indicating possession. There are several competing terminologies:

  • In traditional linguistics, the terms possessive (um) and possessive pronoun (also: possessive pronoun ) equivalent and it is discriminated between substantive possessive pronouns or substantive possessive (for example, its in that is his ) and adjectival possessive pronouns or adjectival possessive (for example, be in his house ).
  • In modern linguistics, possessive pronouns are also used in a narrower sense and then only designate words like his (in: that is his ), but not words like his (in: his house ). The latter are then called possessive articles (also: possessive companions, possessive determinants, possessive determinants ).

Meaning of possessive

In general, possessives are used to express belonging or belonging. They refer to grammatical persons by assigning certain facts to them, which are expressed by nouns (or other substantiated words). These issues include property, property, family, and other social relationships. In the German language , very different relationships of a person with the same possessive can be expressed - for example the 1st grammatical person, the speaker:

  • my bike : object belonging to the speaker (possession or property)
  • my skin : organ that belongs to the speaker
  • my fear : sensation that belongs to the speaker
  • my laziness : quality assigned to the speaker
  • my child : person who is assigned to the speaker (relatives)
  • my birthday : event that is assigned to the speaker (affiliation)
  • my reputation : abstract concept that is assigned to the speaker (affiliation)

Syntactic status of possessives

In a sentence , possessives can have various syntactic functions in different languages : They can be used as pronouns , adjectives and article words .

Attribute or article?

In some languages ​​possessives are used like adjective attributes , in other languages ​​such as determinatives according to the type of article . The difference should be demonstrated here using the example of the noun phrase "your little melancholy life" (from the book The Little Prince , Chapter 6).

In the French original language this phrase is:

  • ta petite vie mélancolique

The possessive ta “your” replaces the definite article la ; it is not an attribute like the following petite "small".

In the German language this works the same way:

  • your little melancholy life

The article on the noun Leben ( ein or das ) is replaced by the possessive dein and cannot be combined with it.

Different in the Italian language:

  • la tua piccola vita malinconica

Here the definite article la and the possessive tua are used in combination, as is typical and obligatory for Italian. In the Italian sentence structure , the possessive is not used as an article, but as an attribute, just like piccola "small".


In many languages ​​possessives can be used nouns, but then show other forms - for example in English:

adjectival pronoun
or article word
noun pronoun
or pronoun
Singular 1. my mine
2. your yours
3. masculine his his
feminine here hers
Plural 1. our ours
2. your yours
3. their theirs

While the possessive articles accompany a noun like an article: my house , the pronouns (in the narrower sense) replace the noun: Is this your house? - yes, it is mine.

German also has possessive pronouns. These forms are mainly used in oral speech (family / informal language style). However, the prerequisite for understanding such constructions is (as in English) that the noun in question has already been mentioned (so they are only used anaphorically ):

Nominative accusative
Singular ( masculine ) Who does the spoon belong to ? - This is mine . I need a spoon . - You can take mine .
Singular ( neuter ) Who does the knife belong to ? - This is mine . I need a knife . - You can take mine .
Singular ( feminine ) Who does the fork belong to ? - This is mine . I need a fork . - You can take mine .
Plural Who do the plates belong to ? - These are mine . I need (some) plates . - You can take mine .

Forms of possessives

In many languages ​​there are also different possessives for different grammatical persons , for example in German:

Singular Plural courtesy
1st person my our
2nd person your your your
3rd person masculine his / her her / their
feminine her / their
neuter his / her

Differentiation according to gender

There are two forms of the German possessive pronoun of the 3rd person singular, which are used depending on the gender of the "owner":

das Haus der Schwesterihr Haus, in ihrem Haus …
das Haus des Bruderssein Haus, in seinem Haus …
das Haus des Kindessein Haus, in seinem Haus …

There is no distinction between neuter and masculine here in German.

Reflexive and non-reflexive possessives

The difference in use between his / her and his / her / its is that the latter two determinants cannot be used in retrospect, but refer to another possessor:

Mein Känguru stolpert über seinen Schwanz. [: seinen eigenen Schwanz]
Mein Känguru stolpert über dessen Schwanz. [: jemandes anderen Schwanz]

In addition, its and its not unlike any other possessive flexed be.

In the Scandinavian languages , too, there are different possessive forms for the third person, which differentiate between referring back to the subject and referring to a previously mentioned referent. Example from Danish:

* Elsker han sin kone? „Liebt er seine [: seine eigene] Frau?“
* Elsker han hans kone? „Liebt er seine [: jemandes anderen] Frau?“

This reference can only be made in the 3rd person, not in the 2nd or 1st person:

* Jeg elsker hans kone. „Ich liebe seine Frau.“ – grammatisch ohne Sinn: Jeg elsker sin kone.
* Elsker du hans kone? „Liebst du seine Frau?“ – grammatisch ohne Sinn: Elsker du sin kone?

There is, however, a reference back regardless of the grammatical person in the Slavic languages, for example in Czech. Here the possessive svoj- (here in the feminine accusative form svou ) always refers to the subject, regardless of which grammatical person the subject forms:

* Já miluji svou ženu. „Ich liebe meine [: eigene] Frau.“
* Ty miluješ svou ženu. „Du liebst deine [: eigene] Frau.“
* On miluje svou ženu. „Er liebt seine [: eigene] Frau.“
* Ona miluje svou ženu. „Sie liebt ihre [: eigene] Frau.“

Syntactic function and inflected forms (declination)

In German, possessives are declined or inflected according to the number ( number ) and gender ( gender ) of the reference noun .

Singular Plural
masculine feminine neuter masculine / feminine / neuter
Nominative This is … my son my e daughter my child These are … my e sons / daughters / children
Genitive the name … my it son my he daughter my it child the names … my he sons / daughters / children
dative I write … my em son my he daughter my em child I write … my s sons / daughters / children
accusative I'm looking for … my s son my e daughter my child I'm looking for … my e sons / daughters / children

A declension of possessives is not possible in all languages; For example, in Icelandic only the possessives of the 1st and 2nd person singular can inflect in all cases and numbers, while the possessives of the other persons remain unchangeable in all cases and numbers.

Possessive adjectives

Forms on -ig in German

In German there are also possessives, which are derived from the possessive stems with the suffix -ig :

  • the / the / mine
  • the / yours
  • yours (polite form)
  • the / his / its
  • theirs (sg.)
  • ours
  • the / yours
  • theirs (pl.)

Due to the word formation on -ig , these forms are to be classified as adjectives, also in the sense that they follow the article. However, they are therefore mostly used substantively, i.e. H. with a few exceptions without a subsequent noun. Due to the relative independence, there is also sometimes a classification as a possessive pronoun.

Possessive adjectives in Slavic languages

There are also possessive adjectives in the Slavic languages , which are not derived from possessives themselves, but from nouns: with the suffix -ov- is derived from a male, with the suffix -in from a female person. For example, Newton's Law and Pandora's Box in different Slavic languages ​​are:

  • Croatian Newton ov zakon , Pandor in a kutija
  • Serbian Njutn ov zakon , Pandor in a kutija
  • Slovak Newton ov zákon , Pandor in a skrinka
  • Slovenian Newton ov zakon , Pandor in a skrinjica
  • Czech Newton ův zákon , Pandoř in a skříňka

In German there is a similar design using suffix -SCH : Newton beautiful it law

The term Merkel rhombus also has the suffix -in- (however, it is only used in Czech so far):

  • Czech Merkel in kosočtverec

Possessive affixes

Many languages ​​mark affiliation directly with a noun by adding either a prefix or a suffix to it. The latter show many Finno-Ugric languages , such as Hungarian . The possessives are added to the noun as suffixes, here using the example of kép 'image':

Singular Plural
1. kép- em My picture kép- ünk our photo
2. kép- ed your picture kép- etek your picture
3. kép- e his / her picture * kép- ük your picture

Also Turkish used possessive suffixes:

Singular Plural
1. ev- im my house ev- imiz our house
2. ev- in your house ev- iniz your house
3. ev- i his / her house * EV leri Your House
*Weder Ungarisch noch Türkisch unterscheiden in der 3. Person zwischen männlichem und weiblichem Geschlecht.

In some languages ​​the possessive suffix is ​​used to precede the plural suffix and other suffixes, such as: B. in Quechua :

Quechua: chaki ("foot") → chaki y ("my foot") → chaki y kuna ("my feet") → chaki y kunawan ("with my feet") (the possessive suffix y "my" is highlighted in bold).

Other possessive forms

Some languages ​​do not have a possessive pronoun. The function can be performed analytically by the combination of personal pronouns and genitive markers, e.g. B. in Japanese : His shoes = 彼 の 靴[kare no kutsu] (literally: he, from, shoes → shoes from him).

See also


  • Duden - The grammar. (= The Duden. 4). 8th, revised edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-411-04048-3 .
  • Gisela Zifonun: German grammar in European comparison: the pronoun. Part 3: possessive pronouns (= amades. Working papers and materials on the German language. 05, no. 3). Institute for the German Language, Mannheim 2005, ISBN 3-937241-08-6 , ( digital version (PDF; 2.51 MB) ).

Web links

Wiktionary: possessive pronouns  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Possessive  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Possessiva , Possessivum - Duden , Bibliographisches Institut , 2016
  2. Possessivum - DWDS (accessed on December 6, 2016.)
  3. Nadine Eichler: Code switching in children growing up bilingually: An analysis of mixed-language noun phrases with special consideration of gender. Narr Verlag, 2011, p. 157 and p. 163. Quotation: “Spanish distinguishes between adjectival and noun possessive pronouns . [...] In German, there are also two types of possessive pronouns: adjectivally used and substantively used possessive pronouns . "
  4. Duden - The grammar. 8th, revised edition. 2009, p. 279.
  5. Duden - The grammar. 8th, revised edition. 2009, p. 280.
  6. http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/meinige . Likewise, possessive pronouns ending in -ig ( Canoonet ) - but with the addition that the forms have the inflection of adjectives.
  7. Annett Meiritz: Volby v Německu 2013: Prostředníkem proti kosočtverci. In: voxeurop.eu. Retrieved September 21, 2018 (Czech).