Her son / His daughter / Son fils / Sa fille

Yendred

Senior Member
Français - France
(inspired by another thread)

In English, possessive adjectives agree with the person who possesses:
a father loves his son/daughter, a mother loves her son/daughter.

In French, it's the opposite. Possessive adjectives agree with the person possessed (or object possessed, because in French, objects have a gender):
un père/une mère aime son fils, un père/une mère aime sa fille.

What about in other languages? What's the most frequent rule among languages? Regarding this rule, are there two groups, like Germanic languages on one side, and Romance languages on the other side? And is there an explanation for the origin of this rule, in one form or the other?
 
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  • cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    You only mentioned Germanic and Roman languages, so I'm not sure you're interesting in Arabic :) But I'll mention it just in case:

    In Arabic, the possessive adjective changes according to the possessor: so when we speak about a daughter, we use the masculine for the father (not the feminine for her), and when speaking about the son we use the feminine for the mother not the masculine for him:
    ابنته ibnatuhu his daughter
    ابنه ibnuhu his son
    ابنتها ibnatuha her daughter
    ابنها ibnuha her son
    hu: masculine pronoun, accorded(?) with (accordé avec) the father
    ha: feminine pronoun, used for the mother, regardless of the gender of her child.
     

    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    You only mentioned Germanic and Roman languages, so I'm not sure you're interesting in Arabic :)
    I'm interested in all languages ;) I just mentioned Germanic and Romance languages as examples of language groups, but there may be other identifiable language groups.
     
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    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Good to know :) :thumbsup:

    By the way, some languages don't have a different gender for all possessives, like in Spanish: su is both his and her, while they have nuestro (our) which is masculine and the gender refers to the possessed not the possessor. So it's like French, even though there's difference in which pronouns gets changed :)
    In French: notre (our), votre (your) and leur (their) don't change, while mon/ma, ton/ta, son/sa change, according to the object or person "possessed".
    In Spanish: mi (my), tu (your), su (his/her/their) don't change, and it's the nuestro/nuestra (our) and vuestro/vuestra (your) thant changes.

    Interesting. :)
     

    Circunflejo

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Castilla
    In Spanish: mi (my), tu (your), su (his/her/their) don't change, and it's the nuestro/nuestra (our) and vuestro/vuestra (your) thant changes.
    My, your and his/her/their have gender specific alternatvies: mío and mía, tuyo and tuya and suyo and suya respectively.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    Portuguese has a possessive system not unlike any other Romance language, where possessive adjectives agree in gender with the noun they go with. Thing is, since Brazilians have replaced "tu" and "vós" with "você" and "vocês", which carry the 3rd person "seu" possessive, an ambiguity between 2nd and 3rd person possessives has arised. Such ambiguity has been resolved in the spoken language by (often?) using dele/dela/deles/delas ("of him, of hers, of theirs (masc.), of theirs (fem.)"). So you can say colloquial Brazilian Portuguese changes 3rd person possessives according to the possessor, although it's obviously not an adjective.
     

    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    In Italian and Sardinian it works like in French, except that in Sardinian the possessive always goes behind the subject.

    French : un père/une mère aime son fils, un père/une mère aime sa fille.
    Italian : un padre/una madre ama suo figlio, un padre/una madre ama sua figlia.
    Sardinian : unu babbu/una mama amat a fizu sou , unu babbu/una mama amat a fiza sua.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The situation in Russian is as follows:

    1) In the 1st and the 2nd persons (as well as in possessive reflexives), the form of the pronoun is chosen basing on the gender of the possessed object. Let's consider singular possessives (especially considering that Russian lacks the cathegory of gender in plural entirely):
    "móy sýn" - my (m/f) son
    "moya dóch" - my (m/f) daughter
    "moyó sólntse" - my (m/f) sun ("sun" is neuter)
    "tvóy sýn" - thy (m/f) son
    "tvoya dóch" - thy (m/f) daughter
    "tvoyó sólntse" - thy (m/f) sun
    "svóy sýn" - one's own (m/f/n) son
    "svoya dóch" - one's own (m/f/n) daughter
    "svoyó sólntse" - one's own (m/f/n) sun

    2) In the 3rd person, on the other hand, the choice of pronoun depends on the gender of the possessor and not of the possessed object.
    "yevó sýn" - his/its son
    "yevó dóch" - his/its daughter
    "yevó sólntse" - his/its sun
    "yeyó sýn" - her son
    "yeyó dóch" - her daughter
    "yeyó sólntse" - her sun

    It is quite natural, considering that the first group is an Indo-European heritage (and PIE simply didn't have gender distinctions in personal pronouns) while the second group is a Slavic development based on original gender-dependent demonstratives (as much as all the 3rd person personal pronouns; PIE just lacked that cathegory). In fact, the second group of possessives is identical to genitive forms of the respective 3rd person personal pronouns, and it is indeclinable (even though syntactically it behaves like proper attributives and not like genitives). That is often inconvenient and the Russian language made some efforts to create declinable variants (which also would conform to the gender of the possessed object to the top of it, as any proper attributive does), but as of yet they are colloquial (3rd p. pl.) or dialectal and not even uniform (3rd p. sg. m./n. and f.).

    A dialectal/substandard usage may look as follows (sorry for the messy practical transcription trying to make do with two English letters for two vowels and one consonant :)):
    "yevónnyi sýn" - his/its son
    "yevónnaya dóch" - his/its daughter
    "yevónnoye sólntse" - his/its sun
    "yéynyi sýn" - her son
    "yéynaya dóch" - her daughter
    "yéynoye sólntse" - her sun
     
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    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    My, your and his/her/their have gender specific alternatvies: mío and mía, tuyo and tuya and suyo and suya respectively.
    Of course, but I was talking about mi hijo - mi hija, where the gender of "mi" doesn't change.

    Interestingly, and to further the comparison between Spanish and French, French also has "le mien, la mienne" which are similar to the Spanish el mío, la mía. And as Spanish has el nuestro, el vuestro, la nuestra, la vuestra; French has le/la nôtre and le/la vôtre.
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    In Lithuanian, just like in English, only the 3rd person singular possessive pronoun changes according to the gender of the possessor:

    namas = house (masc.)
    duona = bread (fem.)

    jo namas, jo duona = his house, his bread
    jos namas, jos duona = her house, her bread

    .

    In Hungarian and Georgian (both non-Indo-European), there are no genders so they don't have a difference of this kind.
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    Czech is like Russian or Latin in this respect (they distinguish reflexive and non-reflexive possessive constructions, at least in the 3rd person):

    I. Czech, reflexive use (using the reflexive possessive adjective):

    otec (matka) miluje svého syna (m. sing.) = un père/une mère aime son fils;
    otec (matka) miluje svou dceru (f. sing.) = un père/une mère aime sa fille;
    otec (matka) miluje své syny (m. plur.);
    otec (matka) miluje své dcery (f. plur.);

    The reflexive possessive adjective does not express the gender of the "possessor" but must agree (like any adjectives) with the noun they go with in gender, number and case (although some forms can be identical).

    II. Czech, non-reflexive use (using the genitives of personal pronouns):

    jeho (= his) is genitive of on (= he);
    její or (= her) is genitive of ona (= she);
    jejich or jich (= their) is genitive of oni / ony (= they m. / they f.);
    (její and jejich are reduplicated forms of jí and jich, respectively)

    otec miluje jeho syna = a father loves his son (= a son of another father);
    matka miluje jeho syna = a mother loves his son (= a son of another father);
    otec miluje jeho dceru = a father loves his daughter (= a daughter of another father);
    matka miluje jeho dceru = a mother loves his daughter (= a daughter of another father);
    otec miluje její dceru = a father loves her daughter (= a daughter of a woman);
    matka miluje její dceru = a mother loves her daughter (= a daughter of another mother);

    In the non-reflexive use we can say "a father loves her son (= a son of a woman)" as well as "a mother loves his son (= a son of a man)".

    otec miluje jejich syna = a father loves their son;
    matka miluje jejich syna = a mother loves their son;
    otec miluje jejich dceru = a father loves their daughter;
    matka miluje jejich dceru = a mother loves their daughter;

    The genitives are invariant.

    So in Latin and the Slavic languages (at least in Czech, Russian), the reflexive use is similar to French and the non-reflexive use is similar to English.

    It's somewhat tricky, but quite logical.
     
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    Dymn

    Senior Member
    I forgot to add Catalan so here it goes:

    un pare / una mare estima el seu fill
    un pare / una mare estima la seva filla


    So same as other Romance languages. Instead of "el seu", "la seva", you can use the short versions "son", "sa", respectively.

    Sardinian : unu babbu/una mama amat a fizu sou , unu babbu/una mama amat a fiza sua.
    "A" is the preposition, like in Spanish (quiere a su hijo)? This usage is also found in Napolitan and Sicilian, isn't it?
     

    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    "A" is the preposition, like in Spanish (quiere a su hijo)? This usage is also found in Napolitan and Sicilian, isn't it?
    I'm not sure about Neapolitan and Sicilian, but in Sardinian it's very common. It's also used to introduce the interrogative phrases, it's used more or less like the "Do" in English, and it's connected to the verb used in the phrase.

    Do you love your son? -> A lu amas a fizu tou?
    Does the father love his son? -> Su babbu a lu amat a fizu sou?
    Do you want some water? -> A queres abba? / Abba a 'nde queres?
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    For the European IE languages we can generally say:

    I. The possessive adjectives never express the gender of the "possessor", but always must agree in gender, number and case with the nouns they go with (naturally according to the rules of the specific language, some forms may be identical, which is true especially for English, to some extent for Spanish, etc.).

    For example, in Latin (three genders, two numbers, six cases):

    meus pater, mea mater, meum opus (my father, my mother, my work)
    tuus pater, tua mater, tuum opus
    noster pater, nostra mater, nostrum opus
    vester pater, vestra mater, vestrum opus

    reflexive possessive (in accusative plural):
    suos patres, suas matres, sua opera

    We can say nothing about the gender of the possessor.

    II. If the "possessor" is some third person (or persons), Latin and the Slavic languages (at least) use the genitive case of the third-person personal pronouns (he, she, it, they). So the genitives may express the gender of the possessor, but not necessarily (in the Slavic languages only in singular, in Latin only in plural). The genitives are invariant - no agreement in gender, number and case with the nouns they go with.

    Latin examples:

    eius (= his, her) is the genitive case of both is = he and ea = she;
    eorum, earum (= their) are genitives of ii, eae respectively (= they m. / they f.);

    eius pater, eius mater, eius opus (his or her father, mother, work; the single possessor is of any gender)
    eorum pater, eorum mater, eorum opus (their father, ...; the possessors are of masculine gender or mixed)
    earum pater, earum mater, earum opus (their father, ...; the possessors are of feminine gender, e.g. girls/sisters)

    The mentioned genitives eius, eorum, earum cannot be used if the possessor is the subject of the sentence, in such case we must use the reflexive possessive adjective suus, sua, suum:

    Romulus occidit Remum gladio suo (m.). = Romulus killed Remus with his (i.e. Romulus's) sword.
    Romulus occidit Remum sicā suā (f.). = Romulus killed Remus with his (i.e. Romulus's) dagger.
    Romulus Remum eius gladio occidit. = Romulus killed Remus with his (i.e. Remus's) sword.
    Romulus Remum eius sicā occidit. = Romulus killed Remus with his (i.e. Remus's) dagger.

    I suspect that the English possessives his, her, its are genitives of he, she, it respectively. Thus they naturally express the gender of the possessor.
     
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    Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    In South Slavic languages, possessive pronouns agree with both the possessor and the possessed (whenever the corresponding personal pronoun has it's own gender, since only 3rd person pronouns distinguish gender). This is the result of a development similar to what happens in colloquial Russian which Awwal has mentioned, only in South Slavic it has become firmly entrenched and is a part of all standard languages: third person genitives were transformed into declinable adjectives by the addition of some suffix.

    So, (Croatian examples), njega "of him" > njegov, -a, -o "his", nje "of her" > nje(zi)n, -a, -o "her" and njih "of them" > njihov, -a, -o "their". The suffix -ov generally makes possessive adjectives from masculine and neuter nouns (brat "brother", bratov "brother's"), while the suffix -in generalyl makes them from feminine nouns (sestra "sister", sestrin "sister's"). These are by rule sometimes used instead of the genitive case.

    First and second person possessive pronouns are ancient (Indo-European origin, related to e.g. those of Latin) and unrelated to the genitive case. So they distinguish only the gender of the possessed: moj, -a, -e "my", tvoj, -a, -e "your", naš, -a, -e "our", vaš, -a, -e "your".
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (US Northeast)
    German has both agreements, with (s)he who possesses and (s)he who is being possessed. Moreover, because of the case system they decline in nominative, genitive, accusative, dative

    Nominative
    His. Sein Sohn (his son), Seine Tochter (his daughter), Sein Auto (his car)
    Her. Ihr Sohn (her son), Ihre Tochter (her daughter), Ihr Auto (her car)

    Genitive
    His. Seines Sohnes, Seiner Tochter, Seines Autos
    Her. Ihres Sohnes, Ihrer Tochter. Ihres Autos

    Accusative
    His. Seinen Sohn, Seine Tochter. Sein Auto
    Her. Ihren Sohn. Ihre Tochter. Ihr Auto

    Dative
    His. Seinem Sohne, Seiner Tochter. Seinem Auto
    Her. Ihrem Sohne. Ihrer Tochter. Ihrem Auto
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    And while in German/Dutch, sein/zijn comes from a reflexive possessive related to Latin suus, ihr/haar comes from the old dative form corresponding to "she".
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    (inspired by another thread)

    In English, possessive adjectives agree with the person who possesses:
    a father loves his son/daughter, a mother loves her son/daughter.
    Strictly speaking, his/her aren't possessive adjectives, but possessive pronouns, at least historically: even when English had grammatical gender distinctions, the forerunners of his/her/their/etc. didn't reflect them.

    Actual possessive adjectives would be e.g. mine/thine (again, historically: when English had gender inflections, they varied by gender just like other adjectives), which, in modern English, are mainly used predicatively ("That car is mine", etc.) rather than attributively.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    Wiktionary says my/your/etc. are determiners while mine/yours are pronouns. I think this makes more sense. The same could be said with Spanish mi/tu/su and mío/tuyo/suyo.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Wiktionary says my/your/etc. are determiners while mine/yours are pronouns. I think this makes more sense.
    Technically, "pronouns" and "determiners" perfectly can be overlapping cathegories. "Determiner" is an objective cathegory of English syntax; "pronoun", on the other hand, is a loose group of words sharing certain semantic features.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Wiktionary says my/your/etc. are determiners while mine/yours are pronouns.
    I'm not sure things are so clear-cut, given modern English's lack of adjective agreement (and the consequent difficulty of distinguishing between pronouns and adjectives).

    But in any case, I was referring specifically to the 3rd person pronouns his/her/their, which are descended from genitive pronouns.

    I think this makes more sense. The same could be said with Spanish mi/tu/su and mío/tuyo/suyo.
    All of these agree in number (and the latter three in gender) with the noun they modify. By what criteria can we deny them the status of adjectives?
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    I'm not sure things are so clear-cut, given modern English's lack of adjective agreement (and the consequent difficulty of distinguishing between pronouns and adjectives).
    I understand a pronoun to be a word that replaces a noun or a noun phrase. "My book" replaces "the book of mine". And "of mine" is a prepositional phrase, not a noun phrase. My feeling is that possessive determiners are just called "pronouns" because they fit nicely with real personal pronouns.

    All of these agree in number (and the latter three in gender) with the noun they modify. By what criteria can we deny them the status of adjectives?
    Mi/tu/su/nuestro/vuestro don't take a definite article. If they were adjectives they would.
     

    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    By that definition "I" and "you" hardly can count as pronouns.
    Don't you and I have a name? "I" and "you" are called personal pronouns, because they - grammatically speaking - substitute for a person name (or by extension an object noun, in the case of "it").
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (US Northeast)
    If memory serves me, the origin of the possessive adjective was the long form in Old Spanish: el mío amigo, la mía casa, los míos ojos, las mías camisas. The short forms developed because the tonic accent fell on the noun. Everything before the tonic accent collapsed into a short form for sake of economy: el mio amigo > el mi amigo > e mi amigo > mi amigo. The collapsed syllables were dead weight, were skipped over and didn't reveal anything important. Concerning the adjective following the noun however the possessive adjective fell under the tonic accent and could not collapse. Amigo mío.
    Many adjectives preceding nouns collapse into one syllable for similar reasons: gran, buen, san, primer, tercer.... but never do when following the noun.
     

    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    Just a quick note. In the case of san, there are a few exceptions like Santo Tomás or Santo Domingo.
    This happens also in Sardinian, where the word Santu is never shortened like in Italian

    Italian

    San Tommaso
    San Domenico
    San Giovanni
    San Giorgio
    San Francesco
    San Pietro
    San Paolo
    San Giacomo

    Sardinian
    Santu Thòmas
    Santu Domínigu
    Santu Juanne
    Santu Jorzi
    Santu Frantziscu
    Santu Pedru
    Santu Paulu
    Santu Jagu
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    In Greek the possessive pronouns are not declined (like in English) and are placed after the noun or adjective they refer to (unlike English).

    μου=my
    σου=your
    του=his/its
    της=her
    μας=our
    σας=your
    τους=their (m.,f,.n.)

    Gr. ................... En. ................ Ger.
    ο γιος της = her son = ihr Sohn
    η κόρη του = his daughter = seine Tochter
    το σπίτι μου = my house = mein Haus
    το σπίτι της = her house = ihr Haus
    στο σπίτι σου = in your house = in deinem Haus
    το ωραίο σπίτι σας = your nice house = euer schönes Haus
     
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