Possessive adjectives are words that say to whom or to what something belongs. In English we have seven possessive adjectives:
In French there are few more of these words to juggle, and which one you use depends on a few different factors ...
You might remember that all French nouns are either masculine or feminine. Even things like tables and lamps. The upshot of this is that French possessive adjectives will change depending on the gender of the noun they're describing. Like this:
In English, the word "my" stays the same. But in French it changes depending on whether you're talking about a masculine noun (père) or a feminine noun (mère).
Sounds simple, right? Well there's a little confusing twist for English speakers. Look at these examples and see if you can spot what it is:
Did you notice that the French for "his father" and "her father" is exactly the same?
Yup. The gender of the child is neither here nor there. It doesn't factor into the sentence at all. That's confusing for English speakers who are used to saying "his" and "her".
It also means you also get this kind of situation:
Again, you can't tell the gender of the child in this example, because the possessive adjective is only interested in the gender of the noun it's describing. (And obviously "father" is a masculine noun, while "mother" is a feminine noun.) Tricky, right?
There are a couple of times when it doesn't matter if you're talking about a masculine noun or a feminine noun, the possessive adjective will always be the same.
Since the feminine possessive adjectives (ma, ta, sa) end in vowels, it would be quite awkward to have to say a word beginning with a vowel right afterwards. (Try it yourself: It's like trying to say "a apple".)
To avoid this inelegant situation, any time there's a noun that starts with a vowel — regardless of its real gender — you'll use the masculine possessive adjective, since they all end in an N, and this makes it easier to run the words together smoothly.
The possessive adjectives for "our", "their", group "your" and formal "your" are the same regardless of the gender of the noun. So that makes things a little simpler, right?
Here's a full table so you can wrap your head around it: