What is the possessive pronoun of animals or thing?

We can say:

  • This car is mine.
  • This coffee is yours.
  • This book is hers.

How ca we say this food bowl belongs to my dog, or those buildings belong to the company.

Can I say:

  • My dog has a lot of things. This food bowl is its.
  • This company is very big. These buildings are its.
  • 6
    No, with a very small number of exceptions, the genitive pronoun "its" is only used as a dependent form (The dog likes its bowl). Your examples with "its" are ungrammatical and should be re-cast as something like This food bowl is the dog's (or his/hers) and These buildings are theirs (or the company's).
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 8:35
  • In terms of association with a pet, actual common usage can depend on the speaker's opinion of that type of pet. A dog lover would always use "his/hers", regardless of what the English rules might be, especially if the dog is considered a "member of the family". Someone who hates dogs would use "its", regardless of what the English rules might be.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 20:34
  • I would use "belong(s) to him/her/it/them". This avoids the "its" issue, which in any case reads poorly. Is there a particular reason you wrote them this way? If it is just to follow a pattern, I would not make such assumption.
    – user3169
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 20:54
  • This question has already got an answer here: "Its" as a Possessive Pronoun also here also says this usage of its is rare
    – Yuri
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 21:24

4 Answers 4


I will almost always use "he/his" or "she/hers" when referring to pets, especially my own.

This is my cat's food dish. This is his.

This is my bed, but my cat thinks it's his.

Of course, inanimate objects are usually "it/its", except for certain things like boats or ships or really anything else people like to anthropomorphize and/or name (like cars, tools, etc.)

Edit: Apparently the question is whether you can use "its" in this way. As far as I know you can, but you rarely should -- grammatically "its" is fine, but idiomatically "its" is not used. Also, the British might be more strict about this, since the only mention I found about this is in a Cambridge English grammar site.

  • True, but I don't think that's quite the point the OP was asking about.
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 13:00
  • Ah, well. There are two questions, then. The correct answer is you can use its in this context, which leaves open the question whether you should.
    – Andrew
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 17:13

An animal is referred as “it” unless the relationship is personal (like a pet that has a name). Then it’s OK to use “he” or “she” when referring to the animal. This also applies to using “who” and “whom.” If the animal has a personal relationship with the person, then use “who” or “whom.” Otherwise you must exclusively use “which” or “that.” Here’s an example that incorporates both of these rules:

Personal: My horse, whom I call Steve, is my best friend. He comforts me when I ride him.

Generic: The stray dog, which I saw chasing its own tail, was shedding hair.

The “personal” rule also holds true if you’re writing a kids book and the animals can talk—as you’re giving them human traits and making them characters your readers can get to know. Even if the animals don’t have specific names, they are given personalities and this is enough to make them personal.

In the same way, by keeping mentioned explanations, I would like to say that you can use "its" or "her" or "his". Secondly, " its" is also used when gender is unknown.


A philosophical answer coming: Mine, yours...

What do they mean? They mean that a human has something, possess something, they indicate possession.

What you said in your question is correct but as indicated in a comment they are rarely used, the reason is objects cannot possess things. I see a computer with a keyboard, I still call it a computer. I see bread with meat in it, I call it hamburger.

You see, when you modify a property of an object, you either keep calling it by the original name or create a new name. Object cannot possess objects, you're going to end with an object.

Animals cannot possess objects, they cannot own things. I hope I'm being clear here. People started saying "it's mine" to indicate what they bought etc. Many years later language changed and we started using "his" for dogs or whatever.

My teacher used to hate referring to animals by he/she. But again grammatically what you said is correct.

  • This sounds like it's coming from someone who has never owned a dog or cat. :-) Legally, a dog or cat can't be the owner of record of property, but they sure think certain property is theirs. Local native Americans "sold" Manhattan to colonial settlers for some trinkets because their culture didn't have a concept of land ownership; they were just getting some free trinkets so why not? Ownership is a cultural and legal distinction. Possess and ownership aren't the same thing. That said, I'm not sure which concept forms the basis for English language rules.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 22:45
  • @fixer1234 keep in mind that the British created English, Americans modified it, so I'm trying to think as an old British person who lived in 1300s. Animals were things back then. God only created humans, everything else could be destroyed or eaten back then of course :)
    – Lynob
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 22:48
  • @Lynob English is English because of the Vikings and the French, and it's very misleading to say that the "British" created it. Moreover, the English spoken today in England and the English spoken today in New England diverged from a common ancestor; one is not derived from the other.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 6:30

its ok to use he or she when reffering to an animal(for a pet who has a name). so here you can use : "this food bowl is for him". Or "this food bowl is his".

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