We seem to be having quite a good run on the ‘little words’ which students have told me over the years are what trouble them most. To be honest, some of the ‘little words’ in Spanish don’t even bear thinking about and we have had a glimpse of those with our Direct and Indirect Pronouns, but there are others that are really quite friendly.
As far as I remember we haven’t looked very much at Possessive Adjectives so that is our mission for today. We have seen before that adjectives are words that describe – such as, ‘big’, ‘green’, ‘interesting’, so we can say: ‘the big book’, ‘the green book’, ‘the interesting book’. We can also describe something in terms of who it belongs to – ‘my book’; therefore the word ‘my’ has the same function as ‘big’, ‘green’ or ‘interesting’ and is called a Possessive Adjective. In English these words do not change, so I would say ‘my book’ or ‘my books’. However, in Spanish as we know, adjectives change to agree in number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine or feminine) with whatever they are describing and the same thing happens with Possessive Adjectives.
We also learnt before that some adjectives (those that end in ‘o’ in the masculine singular) make four possible changes, (e.g. bueno, buena, buenos, buenas) whilst others (those that end in any other letter in the masculine singular) only make two changes – for singular and plural (grande, grandes)
With Possessive Adjectives the same principle applies, so ‘mi’ (my) can only change to ‘mis’ for the plural.
Mi libro (my book)/mis libros (my books).
The same change happens with ‘tu’ (your – singular familiar form).
Tu libro (your book)/tus libros (your books) and ‘su’ which can mean ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘your’ (usted version) and also ‘their’ and ‘your’ (ustedes version). All those ideas are expressed by ‘su’ or ‘sus’ – with the one change relating to what is possessed (e.g. one book, or more than one book).
Hopefully that point is reasonably clear, but it is important to realize that these changes work completely differently from English, where the changes (e.g. his, her, their) relate to the person possessing, not what is possessed.
When we come to the words for ‘our’ and ‘your’ (that is ‘your’ when the possessor is in the familiar plural form), we come across two adjectives that end in the letter ‘o’, namely ‘nuestro’ and ‘vuestro’.
Again, following the usual adjective rules, these words can make four changes. Therefore we would say ‘nuestro coche’ (our car), ‘nuestra casa’ (our house), ‘nuestros coches’ (our cars), ‘nuestras casas’ (our houses). Likewise ‘vuestro, vuestra, vuestros and vuestras’ are the four familiar plural possessive adjectives.
For example, if I was talking to a couple who were friends and saying something about their children, I would refer to them as ‘vuestros hijos’. If this imaginary couple only had daughters and not sons I would say ‘vuestras hijas’.
Maybe this makes some sense, but as ever it needs plenty of practice!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.