Possessive suffix

In linguistics, a possessive suffix is a suffix attached to a noun to indicate its possessor, much in the manner of possessive adjectives. Possessive suffixes do not exist in all languages; they do exist in some Uralic, Semitic, and Indo-European languages. Complicated systems are found in the Uralic languages; for example, the Nenets language has 27 (3×3×3) different forms for expressing the possessor (first, second, third person), the number of possessors (singular, dual, plural) and the number of objects (singular, dual, plural). This allows Nenets speakers to express the phrase "many houses of us two" in one word.

Possessive suffixes in various languages


Finnish is one language that uses possessive suffixes. The number of possessors and their person can be distinguished for the singular and plural, except for the third person. However, the construction hides the number of possessed objects when the singular objects are in nominative or genitive case and plural objects in nominative case; käteni may mean either "my hand" (subject or direct object), "of my hand" (genitive) or "my hands" (subject or direct object). For example, the following are the forms of talo (house), declined to show possession:

person number Finnish word English phrase
first-person singular taloni my house(s)
plural talomme our house(s)
second-person singular talosi your (sing.) house(s)
plural talonne your (pl.) house(s)
third-person talonsa his/her/their house(s)

The grammatical cases are not affected by the possessive suffix, except for the accusative case (-n or unmarked), which is left unmarked by anything but the possessive suffix. The third-person suffix is used only if the possessor is the subject. For example, Mari maalasi talonsa "Mari painted her house", cf. the use of the genitive case in Toni maalasi Marin talon "Toni painted Mari's house". (The -n on the word talon is the accusative case homophonic to the genitive case.)

For emphasis or clarification, the possessor can be given outside the word as well, using the genitive case. In this case, the possessive suffix remains. For example, my house can be taloni or minun taloni, where minun is the genitive form of the first-person singular pronoun.

Omission of the possessive suffix makes it possible to distinguish the plural for the possessed objects, although this is not considered proper language; e.g. mun käsi "my hand" vs. mun kädet "my hands". Systematic omission of possessive suffixes is found in spoken Finnish, wherever a pronoun in the genitive is used. However, this is found only in direct address, e.g. "Their coats are dry" is Niiden takit on kuivia (niiden lit. "they's"). Contrast this with indirect possession, as in "They took their coats", where the possessive suffix is used: Ne otti takkinsa.


Hungarian is another Finno-Ugric language, distantly related to Finnish. It follows approximately the same rules as given above for Finnish, except that it has no genitive case. So, to say (for example), "Maria's house," one would say Mária háza (where háza means "her/his/its house").

See also Possessive suffixes in the article Hungarian grammar (noun phrases).


Arabic, a Semitic language, uses personal suffixes, also classified as enclitic pronouns, for the genitive and accusative cases of the personal pronouns. The genitive and accusative forms are identical, except for the 1st person singular, which is in genitive and -nī in accusative case. They can be used with nouns, expressing possession, with prepositions, which require the genitive case, or with verbs, expressing the object. Examples for personal suffixes expressing possession, using the word بيت bayt(u) (house) as a base:

person singular dual plural
1st person بيتي baytī my house - بيتنا baytunā our house
2nd person (masc.) بيتك baytuka your house بيتكما baytukumā your (du.) house بيتكم baytukum your house
2nd person (fem.) بيتك baytuki your house بيتكن baytukunna your house
3rd person (masc.) بيته baytuhu his house بيتهما baytuhumā their (du.) house بيتهم baytuhum their house
3rd person (fem.) بيتها baytuhā her house بيتهن baytuhunna their house


In Hebrew, another Semitic language, possessive suffixes are optional; they are more common in formal, archaic, or poetic language, and they are also more common on certain nouns than on others. The following are some different ways to express possession, using the word bayit (house) as a base:

  • my house: beiti (house-my), ha-bayit sheli (the-house of-me)
  • your (masc., sing.) house: beitkha (house-your), ha-bayit shelkha (the-house of-you)
  • Adam's house: beit Adam (house-of Adam), beito shel Adam (house-his of Adam), ha-bayit shel Adam (the-house of Adam)


In Persian, which is an Indo-European language, possessive suffixes are found:
person Suffix
1st person singular -am
2nd person singular -at
3rd person singular -aš
1st person plural -emân
2nd person plural -etân
3rd person plural -ešân

e.g. pedar-am my father; barâdar-aš his/her brother


person singular plural
1st person evim my house evimiz our house
2nd person evin your house eviniz your house
3rd person evi his/her house evleri their house


  1. Johanna Laakso. Uralilaiset kansat. Tietoa suomen sukukielistä ja niiden puhujista. WSOY 1991.

See also

Search another word or see Possessive_suffixon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature