L07: Possessive adjectives

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L07: Possessive adjectives

Post by Peter »

L07: POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES (Aggettivi possessivi)

These adjectives are similar to possessive pronouns in that, when used with the definite article, they comprise six grammatical persons: my, your, his/her/its, our, your (plural) and their.

They are also used with an indefinite article when the meaning becomes, taking un mio amico as an example, one of my friends or a friend of mine. Do not confuse them with the possessive pronoun form mine, yours, his/hers/its, ours, yours, theirs.

You can read about possessive pronouns in Lesson L09 of the Pronoun section.

In most cases when you use a possessive adjective in Italian, you must also use either the definite or indefinite article. However, there are exceptions which we look at a little later. The possessive adjective must agree in gender and number with both the article and noun of what is possessed, not with the possessor.

Formation of possessive adjectives

The possessive adjectives are formed as follows:

my - (masc) mio: (fem) mia
your - (masc) tuo: (fem) tua
his/her/its - (masc) suo: (fem) sua
your (formal) - (masc) Suo: (fem) Sua
our - (masc) nostro: (fem) nostra
your (plural) - (masc) vostro: (fem) vostra
their - loro (invariable)

The plural formal form of your is rendered as Loro.

Use of the definite article with possessive adjectives

Using the above examples, which require the definite article, you have:

il mio libro - my book
la tua penna - your pen
la sua macchina - his or her car
il suo vestito - her dress
il suo collare - its collar (collar here is one that is worn by a pet)
i nostri figli - our children
le vostre mogli - your wives
le loro case - their houses

You will see that her dress is translated as il suo vestito. As with many things in Italian all becomes clear in the full context of what is said or written. If there were to be any confusion as to whose dress it is, then you can say, for example, il vestito della donna.

Exceptions to the use of the definite article

There are certain exceptions to using the definite article. The most common one relates to family members, and then only in the singular and where there is no other adjective being used. However, there is an exception to this exception and that is where you use loro, in which case you must always use the article. Let us look at some examples:

my mother - mia madre
our sister - nostra sorella
your brother - tuo fratello


their aunt - la loro zia
our sisters - le nostre sorelle
their uncles - i loro zii
your brothers - i tuoi fratelli

our dear mother - la nostra cara madre (or mamma)
my beautiful wife - la mia bella moglie
your handsome husband - il tuo bello marito

Note that the definite article is always required when using mamma (Mum), papà, babbo (Dad) or babbino (Daddy).

Other instances where you do not require the definite article include:

Venga a casa mia - come to my house
Era colpo nostro - it was our fault
Facciamolo per amor suo - let’s do it for his sake

Note also that the possessive adjectives come after the noun in those examples – another exception to the rule!

Use of the indefinite article with possessive adjectives

They can also be used with an indefinite article when the meaning becomes, taking un mio amico as an example, one of my friends or a friend of mine. However, do not confuse the use of the adjective to mean of mine, of yours, etc, with the possessive pronoun form mine, yours, etc. A possessive pronoun effectively takes the place of the noun, whereas the possessive adjective modifies it. Let us look at other examples:

un mio libro - one of my books/a book of mine
una tua camicia - one of your shirts/a shirt of yours
un mio zio - one of my uncles/an uncle of mine
una mia zia - one of my aunts/an aunt of mine

Plurals and the use the demonstrative adjective

It follows that when referring to more than one object you must put the number before the adjective, as in:

due vostri amici - two of your friends
quattro loro gatti - four of their cats

This applies also when you use either of the demonstrative adjectives, whether in the singular or in the plural:

questo mio cane - this dog of mine
queste tue giacche - these jackets of yours
quello suo abito - that suit of his
quei vostri amici - those friends of yours

Use of the possessive adjective after essere

Where you use a possessive adjective after the verb essere, you do not need to include the definite article, except for emphasis; for example

questa penna è mia - this pen is mine
questa penna è la mia - this pen is mine (as opposed to anyone else’s)

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