Is the sentence below a correct use of "theirs"?

They were trying to save one of theirs dog.

The original sentence is:

Tom, Mike, Sally and Jane were trying to save Mike's dog.

How can I remove all names and only use possessive adjectives?

  • 1
    No, it's not correct. Their is a possessive adjective; it can modify nouns. But theirs is a pronoun, and must stand alone: Mike saved his dog, but they didn't save their dog(s)/theirs. – John Lawler May 30 '16 at 14:03
  • @JohnLawler 'Their' is certainly not an adjective; most analyses recognize it as a determiner. If English were another language, perhaps it would be analysed as a genitive pronoun. – Aeon Akechi May 30 '16 at 15:47
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    Well, yes, but clearly the OP thinks "adjective" means "modifies nouns". With so much else to correct, why be pedantic? – John Lawler May 30 '16 at 15:51

English does not have a word that is unambiguously the possessive of "one of them". You can say "one of their dogs", but that also means "one of the dogs belonging to them", and without some special context, that will be the meaning understood.

If you want to say this unambiguously, you need to use a periphrastic construction such as "the dog of one of them", or "a dog belonging to one of them".


unfortunately your first sentence is not quite correct. Theirs should only be used as a possessive pronoun (i.e. it should replace both theirs + the noun in the sentence).

If you wanted to say the sentence whilst removing all proper nouns, first group those who are the subject (Tom, Mike, Sally and Jane acting collectively = they), then replace the poor dog owner for a third-person possessive (Mike's = his).

They were trying to save his dog.

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