Possessive pronouns

Recently I was asked a question about words such as my, her, your and their on the one hand, and mine, hers, yours and ours on the other.
Are the former determiners in examples such as her book, and the latter personal pronouns, as in The book is hers?
What does the National Curriculum have to say about the first group of words? Well, if you look carefully you’ll spot an anomaly in the National Curriculum Glossary (NCG).
The NCG has examples like his book in three entries, namely those for ‘possessive’, ‘pronoun’ and ‘determiner’, as the screenshots below show.
possessive NC
pronoun NC
determiner NC

This obviously raises the question: which is correct? Is her in her book a determiner or a pronoun? In our grammar videos (https://www.youtube.com/user/engliciousgrammar), especially videos 2 and 3, we hedge our bets and say that her belongs to both classes, i.e. it’s both a determiner and a pronoun, because this is what the NC seems to be claiming.

In my view it is best to regard her in her book, as well as hers in That book is hers, as possessive pronouns. Her in her book can then be said to have genitive case, and is analogous to Janet’s book. See my Oxford Modern English Grammar.

However, in the Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling tests for KS1 and KS2, it is always assumed that these words are determiners, not pronouns, despite what it says in the glossary.

The National Curriculum Glossary has been integrated into the Englicious and can be viewed here:


The white boxes show NC terms, which we have expanded in many cases.

5 thoughts on “Possessive pronouns

  1. When is a pronoun not a pronoun…? So are we okay to say to our pupils that ‘her’ is always a pronoun, including when it’s preceding a noun e.g. ‘her book’, but when it precedes a noun it is also functioning as a determiner?


    • The National Curriculum glossary seems to imply that a word like ‘her’ before a noun belongs both to the word classes of determiner and pronoun. I personally prefer to say that a word like ‘her’ is always just a pronoun.


  2. A very long time ago, I was taught that ‘her’ as in ‘her book’ was a possessive pronoun. It was only much later that I first heard of the determiner as a part of speech that included articles. But it makes good sense to think of ‘her’ (when it precedes a noun) as a determiner.


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