Whose Is It? An activity to practice possessive pronouns

How do you like to teach possessive pronouns? Since I was working one-on-one with my beginner student, Natasha, I focused first on mine and yours. We put personal items in a basket and took turns taking them back out. As each object was pulled back out, we identified whose object it was or wasn’t. For example, “This is my cell phone. It isn’t yours.” I think this is an easy task to recreate in a classroom. Groups of three or four students could place a few personal items on a desk and take turns identifying to whom everything belongs. Putting things into the pile, students could use possessive adjectives, “These are my keys.” Taking the objects out, possessive pronouns should be used, “These are not mine. These are yours. Here.”

If you have a group that enjoys a little silliness, a fun way to work in practice with the other possessive pronouns could be to ask four students at a time to remove their shoes and place them at the front of the room. Two other students, who were not allowed to observe that first step, could be asked to guess to whom each pair of shoes belongs. For example, let’s say you have two women and two men remove their shoes. Looking at a pair of men’s shoes, Student A says, “These are not women’s shoes. These are not theirs.” (Pointing to the ladies.) Student B adds, “I think these are his.” (Pointing to one of the men.) “Because these are big shoes, and he has big feet.”

If you prefer an activity that’s a bit more serious yet easy to manage, look at my Whose Is It_handout. This is a simple matching game. Students match picture cards to photos of people, identifying which objects belong to whom. For online instructors, you may prefer the layout of the photos in this version: Whose Is It_handout_online instruction. (It’s in Word, so you can easily add your own photos.)

18 Comments Add yours

  1. kkkk22222 says:

    MAM,i like the way you teach… that’s it…

  2. carol says:

    You are fantastic Teacher !!! and a good person too !! I’m from Brazil !!! (: I wish the best for you !!! See ya !!

    1. Thank you for the support. Best wishes to you, too!

  3. Aya says:

    This is a very interesting method for teaching the possessive pronouns. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    I’m Aya from Egypt.

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog, Aya!

  4. deyvi says:

    so cool , thanks teacher this is so helpful , keep on like that, best regards.

  5. heidi says:

    Thank you so much, Jennifer! I teach ESL in Mexico, and this is very helpful! 🙂

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Heidi. I appreciate your comment.
      Happy teaching!

  6. Barbaara says:

    Whose is it? What is the subject of this sentence – whose or it?
    Whose books are these? Is the subject these, or books?
    I hope you will find the time to answer my question. Thank you.

    1. Hi Barbaara.
      “Whose” can be a pronoun (so it can be a subject) or a determiner (like “this” or “that”). Some might argue about subject vs. subject complement, but here’s one simple view, with subjects in bold:

      1. as a pronoun – subject
      Whose is it?
      Whose is the fastest? (talking about cars)
      Whose is ringing? (talking about phones)

      2. as a determiner
      Whose books are these?
      Whose books were left on the table?
      Whose car is the fastest?
      Whose phone is ringing?

      Useful link:

      1. Barbara says:

        Hi Jennifer,
        Thank you for your quick response.
        When you say “some might argue …..” do you mean that some might say that the subject of “Whose is it?” is “it”, or that the subject of “Whose books are these?” might be “these”?
        To find the subject of a question I usually convert the question to an affirmation. When I do that I get: “It is whose.” and “These are (whose) books.”
        What are your thoughts about this?
        Also, thanks for the link. It’s a good site I hadn’t seen before.

      2. Yes, this is where it can get tricky, Barbara! If you convert a question to a declarative sentence, then the pattern doesn’t always hold.
        1. Whose is this? > This is (whose). This is mine.
        2. Whose is the fastest? > Mine is the fastest. (The fastest is mine. – – sounds unnatural)

        Usually we teach students that who, which, and what can be subjects of questions.
        3. Who is here?
        4. Who won?
        5. Which is best?
        6. What happened?
        Would it be different for “whose”?

  7. wlburns says:

    I think I will adapt your handout for an online lesson plan I’m working on for a project although I’m trying to figure out how to make it work online exactly.

    1. Hi there! Thanks for checking out this activity. I just reformatted the photos in a Word document and added that version to the post. See if it works better for you. Hopefully, you’ll be able to screen share in your online class, so you can have two pages side by side. One page will be the people, and the other page will be the objects. Have fun!

  8. María José says:

    Thank you very much for your ideas! I loved it! This topic is kind of confusing, and the activities you suggested are excellent and different. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for considering my ideas. Kind wishes to you!

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