How not to confuse the use of "His (possessive adjective) vs His (possessive pronoun)"? Is there a rule to use these "pronouns"?

Are possessive pronouns used only after verbs and prepositions?

For example:

The black car next the bakery is his.

  • 1
    An adjective modifies a noun, a pronoun does not. So it seems impossible to confuse the two uses. Oct 28, 2016 at 1:23
  • his is never an adjective, it's a Pronoun, a sub-class of Noun. In your sentence - The black car is his - the structure is like this - The black car is [Noun Phrase]. This Noun Phrase is realized by the single head word - his. This pronoun is a possessive pronoun, it shows possession; that mean he owns the black car. Oct 28, 2016 at 3:36
  • @Man There are different ways to categorize words. Whether we call it a possessive adjective or a possessive determiner, this his is different to the possessive pronoun his, according to many analyses, including those most likely to be familiar to learners. Oct 28, 2016 at 16:16

2 Answers 2


His is confusing, since both the pronoun and the adjective are the same word. Try substituting in hers, theirs, ours, yours, or mine if you aren't sure:

The black car next the bakery is his.

"The black car next to the bakery is her?" No. "The black car next to the bakery is hers." It's the possessive pronoun.

In general, the possessive adjective is used when directly modifying a noun, and the possessive pronoun is used when it is either the subject or the direct object of the sentence.

More examples:

Adjective: His life is full of adventure. (Her life is full of adventure.)

Pronoun: His is a life full of adventure. (Theirs is a life full of adventure.)

Pronoun: That thing? It's his. (That thing? It's mine.)

And so on.


"His" ("Her") etc. are possessive pronouns: they are in the genitive case of "He" ("She") etc. The meaning is,"Of him" ("Of her). Thus even if "His" (etc.) modifies a noun - as in "His book", the meaning remains: "the book of him/belonging to him/possessed by him".

Whatever the post-modernist aliens claim, then, a pronoun in the genitive case remains a pronoun. We might concede, however, that use of "his/her" before a noun is adjectival by virtue of syntax. That is, the pronoun is used adjectivally.

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