Possessive pronouns


So I have three questions regarding possessive pronouns:

  1. Regarding the 3rd person singular possessive pronouns, I've read on some websites that I should use 'seu, sua, seus, and suas', but on others I've come across 'dele, dela, deles, and delas'. Are both of these correct to use or is one more common than the other?

  2. If I use the personal pronoun 'vocês' rather than 'tu', should I still use 'teu, tua, teus, and tuas' or 'seu, sua, seus, and suas'?

  3. I've also come across 'vosso, vossa, vossos, and vossas'. When should these be used?

Thank you!

March 4, 2016


Hello tcslevitt,

I will try to help.

  1. "seu, sua, seus, and suas" are 3rd person singular possessive pronouns.

Like Martin have referred, to avoid confusion, we use "dele, dela, deles, and delas" in some sentences to clarify "Who is the Owner?".

Example: "O amigo levou a sua carteira." (Who is the owner of the wallet?) In this sentence, its not clear who is the owner of the wallet. To avoid confusion, we use the contracted form ("de + ele" = "dele"). "O amigo levou a sua carteira dele.".

  1. If you start with "você" you should not use "tua" in reference to the same person.

The use of "você" rather than "tu" is a particular difference between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese from Portugal. In Portugal, particularly in a formal context, the use of "você" is not polite, is considered a rude treatment, a form of insult or downgrading. In this more formal context, I encourage you to simply not refer to the subject: "Por favor, podia passa o açucar?" rather than "Por favor, você podia passar o açucar?".

  1. Examples: Someone talking: "- Eu vou a vossa casa no domingo" someone talking directly to the owner "- Eu vou a casa deles/delas no domingo" someone talking to a 3th person.

I hope this can help you.

March 4, 2016

Thanks very much!

Just one thing... You say 'o amigo levou a SUA carteira DELE'. Is this correct or should it just be 'a carteira dele'?

March 4, 2016

'o amigo levou a SUA carteira DELE' it's not correct. You should say "O amigo levou a carteira dele".

Examples of correct sentences: "O amigo levou a carteira DELE"

Depending on "Who is the owner of the wallet?" "O amigo levou a MINHA carteira" (my) "O amigo levou a TUA carteira" (your) "O amigo levou a SUA carteira" (your) "O amigo levou a NOSSA carteira" (ours) "O amigo levou a VOSSA carteira" (yours) "O amigo levou a carteira DELES" (theirs)

Depending on "Who is the owner of the friendship?" "O MEU amigo levou a carteira" "O TEU amigo levou a carteira" "O NOSSO amigo levou a carteira" "O VOSSO amigo levou a carteira" "O amigo DELES levou a carteira"

Excuse me my poor English. I'm learning ;-)

March 4, 2016

I have a better example:

"A professora proibiu que o aluno utilizasse seu dicionário." (Who is the owner? The teacher? The student?)

Using the contracted form "dele, dela, deles, delas":

  • "A professora proibiu que o aluno utilizasse o dicionário dele." The owner is the student.

  • "A professora proibiu que o aluno utilizasse o dicionário dela." The owner is the teacher.

March 4, 2016

Your explanations are great! :) Don't worry about your English, it is very good! :)

March 4, 2016

Thank you very much for you effort. You have made it very easy to understand! Also, your English is excellent! :)

March 4, 2016

I'm not an expert on Portuguese but I will try to help :).

  1. Both are in use, but 'dele, dela, deles and delas' are used to avoid confusion eg. 'Ele pegou a mala dele e você pegou a sua' He took his suitcase and you took yours. If you were to say 'Ele pegou a sua mala e você pegou a sua', it would sound like you are both taking the same suitcase :D and to avoid this kind of confusion in such cases we use 'dele, dela, deles and delas' with ele, ela, eles and elas and 'seu,sua, seus, suas' with você and vocês.

  2. If you use você, you can still use ´teu, tua, teus, tuas´I believe it is a little less formal than 'seu, sua, seus and suas' but I guess it is completely fine. ´Você está procurando a sua mãe' and 'Você está procurando a tua mãe´are both ok, I think :). If you use ´tu´however I guess only ´teu, tua, teus, tuas´are correct.

  3. About ´vosso, vossa, vossos, vossas´I believe they are related to the pronoun ´vós´which is (as I understand it) no longer in use in Brazil and Portugal, it is replaced by ´vocês´, nonethelss, I believe that you might find it in religious texts, maybe some older stories.

I hope I helped you a little. I´d rather wait for a native speaker opinion on these matters too if I were you :).

March 4, 2016

2 - It's completely fine in speech, but grammatically speaking, you are mixing stuff...

March 4, 2016

Thank you very much!

March 4, 2016

You are welcome! :) I´m glad I could help you! :)

March 4, 2016

It's not grammatically correct to use "teu, tua, teus, tuas" when using "você". It has to be "seu, sua, seus, suas" instead.

March 13, 2016

@tcslevitt I'm a bit late on this topic but here's my contribution:

-1. Seu, Sua, Seus and Suas are "his, her, its, their". You have to options: either you use these or "dele, dela, deles, delas":

Ele lava seu carro (he washes his car) = ele lava o carro dele (he washes the car of his)

Ela está pintando sua casa (she's painting her house) = ela está pintando a casa dela (she's painting the house of hers)

Seus cachorros correm (his/her/their dogs run) = os cachorros dele/dela/deles/delas correm (the dogs of his/hers/theirs run)

The second options of the examples above are more common because of your doubt no. 2:

-2. If you want to use "você", the correct options in terms of possession are Seu, Sua, Seus e Suas. Why? Because even "você" referring to "you", it's conjugated in the 3rd person singular ("vocês" then being 3rd person plural), so consequently, you'll have to stick to the 3rd person logic (Portuguese teachers claim the same); you can only use Teu, Tua, Teus, Tuas if you use "tu" instead.

Você disse que comeria seu bolo (you said you'd eat your cake), informal

Tu disseste que comeria teu bolo (you said you'd eat your cake), formal

The problem with using "você" is that it brings two interpretations, in contrast with your doubt no. 1:

Ele lava seu carro (does he wash HIS car or YOUR car?)

Ela ama sua filha (does she love HER daughter or YOUR daughter?)

Ele bebe sua água (does it drink ITS water or YOUR water?)

In other words, the Brazilian persistence in using "você" has caused that ambiguity. Not a criticism, it's now part of our culture and I never use Tu, by the way (important to mention that there are regions in Brazil that use Tu, especially in the South). So what seems to be done to "solve" the problem is using "dele, dela, deles, delas", instead:

Ele lava seu carro (he washes your car)

Ele lava o carro dele (he washes his car/he washes the car of his)

So what should I use? Well if you use Seu, Sua, Seus and Suas when referring to "his, her, its, their", the context might help understand. Without a context, you will almost certainly have two ideas. I prefer using "dele, dela, deles and delas" and I hear a great majority of people doing the same as well. If you come to Brazil you might notice the same thing.

-3. Vosso, Vossa, Vossos and Vossas are or seem quite formal (in Brazil, at least). I've only come across them in books (with a formal language) and in plays, comparable to "thy" (your) in Brazilian standards. In everyday speech, I've never heard them, unless someone is trying to act formal temporarily for a random purpose, lol.

March 13, 2016
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