Pronouns: Possessives vs. Contractions

Pronouns are among the most commonly-used words in the English language, but unfortunately, it's easy to get some of them mixed up. Even native speakers confuse their and they're or its and it's sometimes. This topic is about the Possessive Determiners (based on pronouns) and Pronouns with Contractions, specifically about how not to get them mixed up.

What to Expect

Pronouns come in many forms, including Possessive Determiners such as my (which don’t act as pronouns anymore) and Subject-Auxiliary Contractions such as I’m.  There are others, of course, but on this page we’re looking at Possessives and Contractions.

In particular, this topic focuses on four pairs of easily-confused words:

  • your and you’re
  • its and it’s
  • their and they’re
  • whose and who’s


The video goes into why they can be confusing as well as a trick to keeping them straight.


Learners should already be familiar with the following:

At the very least, students should know well the subject forms of personal pronouns.  Since this video goes into possessives, it would be nice for students to know these as well, since this video is not meant to be an introduction, but rather a helpful tool to reinforce the distinction between different (but related) forms.

Helping Verbs, aka Auxiliary Verbs, are the small verbs that come in front of more important verbs. They are the words that can be contracted with ‘not’, and are also words that can be contracted with the subjects that precede them.  For this topic, students particularly need to be familiar with the forms of to be and their contracted forms.

A lesson based around this topic probably shouldn’t be the students’ first exposure to contractions.  Hopefully, they would have already seen words like I’m, it’s, isn’t, don’t, etc.

Determiners come before nouns to identify them.  The include articles (like a or the), demonstratives (like these or that), and possessives (like my, his, or her), among others.

Again, this video is not meant to serve as an introduction, so it would be best if students already know the possessive determiners.

Proficiency Level

Students at the A1 level, and certainly those at the A2 level, should be familiar with pronoun contractions and pronoun possessives. They start learning Pronouns at a Beginner level (or 1st out of 6).

*actual starting level varies from one course-book series to the next

Possessives vs. Contractions

Unlike noun possessives, Pronoun Possessives do not have apostrophes.  Contractions, on the other hand, always have apostrophes.  For the pairs that are confusing, try briefly substituting a different pronoun to see if it needs an apostrophe or not.

Bonus Notes

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