“Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands. —Shakespeare.”
In case you’re wondering, we’re not about to delve into a literary discussion on Shakespeare’s Othello. We’re talking about pronouns here, after all. But have a close look at the italicized pronouns in the above quote. Though they look like ordinary possessive pronouns, they are actually a special class called absolute possessive pronouns.
What are Absolute Possessive Pronouns?
If something is absolute it means that is unqualified. In grammar when something is qualified that means modifying is involved. If it is unqualified, there is no modification. Therefore, an absolute possessive pronoun shows ownership and stands apart from the word it modifies rather than right before it.
Other possessive pronouns act as adjectives to nouns. For example,
My alarm clock didn’t go off this morning.
Your breakfast is ready.
Robert brought his new soccer ball to practice.
Her purse matches her shoes.
The dog was chewing its bone.
Their time is just about up.
Absolute possessive pronouns don’t do this. Instead, they stand alone and can act as a subject.
Examples of Absolute Possessive Pronouns
The absolute pronouns are mine, yours, ours, hers, his, and theirs. Consider how they are used as subjects in the following sentences:
The money is as good as ours.
Is this coat yours?
Mine is the coat with the fur collar.
This gift is hers.
His is the package with the big red bow.
Our dog is well behaved but theirs barks all night long.
Absolute possessive pronouns are actually used quite often even though you may be accustomed to simply referring to them as possessive pronouns. Shakespeare was rather fond of them, that’s for sure. Just remember these pronouns are absolute and will never act as an adjective and modify a noun and you’ll do a fine job of identifying and using them.