When you’re using a new language, you'll want to be able to talk about yourself, your family and friends, and your experiences and plans. And Italian learners will study many ways to express possession! This guide teaches you how Italian possessives work and how to use them with all kinds of nouns.
What are possessive adjectives?
Possessive adjectives are words that show who owns or possesses something. In English, these are words like my (my car), his (his homework), and their (their trip). There are a lot of these in English, but Italian has even more, and they follow a different set of rules.
English vs. Italian possessive adjectives
Possessive adjectives in both English and Italian change depending on who is the owner of the noun: We say my dog if I am the owner, her dog if a woman is the owner, our dog if we are the owner, etc.
But there are some big differences learners need to know about these adjectives in Italian:
- They are nearly always used with a word for "the," like il or la.
- There are different versions depending on the grammatical gender of the noun (whether it's masculine or feminine).
- They change depending on whether the noun is singular or plural.
While English possessive adjectives just tell us who owns something, Italian possessive adjectives pack in a lot of information, especially about the noun that is possessed!
All the possessive adjectives in Italian
When we combine 2 options for grammatical gender (masculine and feminine), 2 options for number (singular and plural), and 6 different grammatical persons, that gives us 24 different possessive pronouns:
|Masculine singular||Feminine singular||Masculine plural||Feminine plural|
|my||il mio||la mia||i miei||le mie|
|il tuo||la tua||i tuoi||le tue|
|il suo||la sua||i suoi||le sue|
|our||il nostro||la nostra||i nostri||le nostre|
|il vostro||la vostra||i vostri||le vostre|
|their||il loro||la loro||i loro||le loro|
In general, you'll always need both the article and the possessive form in Italian—this is different from English! Compare these 2 sentences, and notice how in the second, you have to use both the article il and the possessive mio.
|Il professore è intelligente.||The professor is smart|
|Il mio professore è intelligente.||My professor is smart.|
Here are more examples of possessive adjectives in Italian:
|la mia camicia
i miei gatti
|il tuo piatto
le tue cose
|il suo naso
i suoi occhi
|his nose / her nose / its nose
his eyes / her eyes / its eyes
|la nostra macchina
le nostre tazze
|il vostro giardino
le vostre cucine
|il loro lavoro
le loro passioni
Did you notice that the same possessive adjective is used to mean his, her, and its? For example, il suo amico could mean either “his friend” or “her friend.” You’ll have to use context clues here to figure out who someone or something belongs to!
The big exception: family
When you’re talking about a family member in Italian, you don't use the article—just use the possessive adjective before the noun. For example, “my dad” is just mio papà (without the il), “my mom” is mia mamma (without the la), and so on.
Only keep the article if you are referring to more than one family member, or if you are using an adjective to describe the relative. (And famiglia doesn't count as a word for a family member!)
|Typical family member||Plural family member or with an adjective|
|Mia figlia studia francese.
My daughter studies French.
|La mia figlia bionda studia francese.
My blonde daughter studies French.
|Suo figlio vive a Roma.
His son lives in Rome.
|I suoi figli vivono a Roma.
His sons live in Rome.
|Nostro nipote è un dottore.
Our grandson is a doctor.
|I nostri nipoti sono dottori.
Our grandsons are doctors.
Mamma mia… there's one more exception
The expression mamma mia doesn’t fit the rules we’ve described!
When you use an emotional expression like mamma mia or caro mio (my dear), the possessive comes after the noun, without an article.
You can also follow this pattern when you’re talking about someone’s house. For example, you’ll hear casa mia (my house) or casa tua (your house) more often than la mia casa or la tua casa. After all, there's no place like home!
Now you also know Italian possessive pronouns!
Possessive pronouns are words that replace the noun, too—like The new car is mine (instead of repeating my car). Luckily, instead of having to learn a new set of words, you can use the Italian possessive adjectives! When using possessive pronouns, using the article is optional:
|Possessive adjective||Possessive pronoun|
|Il mio cane è carino.
My dog is cute.
|Il cane è il mio. / Il cane è mio.
The dog is mine.
|La tua macchina è rossa, vero?
Your car. is red, right?
|La maccina è la tua. / La macchina è tua.|
|Le nostre sedie sono nuove.
Our chairs are new.
|Le sedie sono le nostre. / Le sedie sono nostre.
The chairs are ours.
Now is *your* chance to practice Italian
Keep practicing these expressions, and soon you’ll be able to tell your Italian friends all about yourself!