“ I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

This line was taken from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

I'm curious about the phrase of my own used here.

In wiktionary own is used only as an adjective and verb. However, Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines this word as an adjective, verb, and pronoun.

As a pronoun, Merriam-Webster defines this word as:

: one or ones belonging to oneself —used after a possessive and without a following noun

On the other hand, one of my friends told me that this is a determiner.

How is own used in the sentence?

2 Answers 2


This is one of those words that rather defies classification into the usual noun/verb/pronoun/etc parts of speech.

Dictionaries tend to classify it as an adjective, but it certainly doesn't pass any of the usual tests for being an adjective. It's not a determiner, since a noun phrase can't have more than one determiner. Nor is is a typical pronoun.

So if you need a classification, "pronoun" seems to be the least bad option. But perhaps this word needs to be treated as a special case, not falling into any of the normal parts of speech, but "on its own".

  • I'd say it's an adjective in a 'fused modifier-head' construction.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 9:48
  • Can you tell me how this works?
    – seven
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 10:10
  • @seven Are you asking me?
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 12:03
  • Yes, I'm wondering what you mean by 'fused modifier-head'
    – seven
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 12:07
  • A "head" (in a noun phrase) is a noun like "house" and a modifier is a phrase (such as an adjective, participle, or noun) that changes the sense. "red" is a modified in "red house". "own" is a modifier in "own house". When the word house is omitted "This house is my own" the single word "own" functions as the phrase "own house". The modifier and the headword are fused into a single word. Hence "fused modifer-head"
    – James K
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 17:38

When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

The adjective "own" typically modifies a noun, as in "my own house". But here the noun is covert, though we understand it like that.

It's a special type of noun phrase where the head and the modifier are combined, or 'fused' together, into the single word "own".

A house of my own" means "a house which belongs to me".

  • The normal tests of adjective nature: forming comparative, can be modified by adverbs of degree like "very". How do they apply to "own"? Certainly "owner/ownest" can't be formed, and "very own" seems wrong. If "own" doesn't pass these tests, by what judgement do we call it an "adjective" in a construction "my own house"
    – James K
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 6:20
  • 1
    @JamesK Why shouldn't you be able to say "a house of my very own"? It sounds fine to me. In "my own house", "own" is followed by a noun, as is typical of adjectives.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 16:24
  • Somethiing seems "off". "very own" seems to have a different relationship from (say) "very hot". You would surely agree that "owner" is not just odd, but impossible. "Own" is not a typical adjective.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 20:43
  • @JamesK "Very" can be used to emphasise "own". "Own" is an adjective in plain grade, so it has no comparative form.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 11:53

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