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Is there a way to indicate that somebody is your girlfriend without using the possessive term my? I think saying She/He is my partner/other half is OK for married people, but it doesn't feel right for girlfriends and boyfriends.

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closed as off topic by RegDwigнt Dec 6 '11 at 15:51

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She and I are intimate. She and I are going steady. She and I are dating. She and I once met at a mixer. –  GEdgar Dec 5 '11 at 22:47
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"We met at a SuperGlue party, and we've been stuck on each other ever since." –  Gnawme Dec 5 '11 at 23:19
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"We're going out" –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Dec 6 '11 at 3:40
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@GEdgar - Both "She and I" and "me and her" and all the variations will lead to pain. Yes, I know that "I" is the subject pronoun where "me" is the object pronoun, but that doesn't mean it sounds natural, and there are zealots on all sides. Rather than trigger criticism whichever form I choose, I'd rather avoid the issue. –  Steve314 Dec 6 '11 at 8:55
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I guess there's only one thing for it @Steve314: We'll have to start saying her and I. –  Matt Эллен Dec 6 '11 at 9:55

14 Answers 14

up vote 66 down vote accepted

There is nothing wrong with using my. Saying my medical appointment does not mean the medical appointment belongs to me, but just that it is connected to me in some way. Stick to my for there is no alternative which expresses the idea succinctly.

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@MohandasGrande: I agree with Jasper that "possessive" is a general grammatical label that by no means expresses actual possession. I agree with you that alternatives are possible. I agree again with Jasper that it is usually unnecessary to use alternatives, because this is the most natural way of saying it, it is not at all really about possession as in ownership, and most alternatives sound a bit awkward to various degrees. –  Cerberus Dec 5 '11 at 23:07
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Foolish. My mother is my mother - my sister should find her own mother. –  Steve314 Dec 6 '11 at 5:45
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In fact, it's possible for grammatical possession to be the inverse of legal possession. When slavery was legal, it was perfectly valid for a slave to use the phrase "my owner" or "my master". –  Dan Dec 6 '11 at 13:32
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The cat that is of me finds this all very confusing. –  kojiro Dec 6 '11 at 14:20
    
Your answer and Skip Huffman answer I would say are the best here. All the other answers provide additional excellent points to consider. –  Mallow Dec 6 '11 at 20:14

You can't really say She is [some word] girlfriend/partner/whatever without using "my". As others have said, "my" in such usages doesn't significantly imply "possession", so there's no reason to avoid it on those grounds. But OP doesn't like it, so let's press on...

If you used "a", it would imply she's just one of several girlfriends/partners.

People do sometimes say things like "Meet the girlfriend", but it's not standard English.

I suggest OP forgets about constructions starting with "She is...", and considers getting the information acrosss in a different way - by saying, for example, "We go out together", "We are an item", "We live together", or whatever variant is closest to the truth.

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Interestingly, the more detached "the" is more offensive than "my". –  tenfour Dec 6 '11 at 14:09
    
OP here ;) I agree with tenfour the detached "the" leaves the question open and unclear as to the availability of the 'other half'. Most all these comments seem to indicate that there is no inherent flaw in saying "My" which solves quite a dilemma. Thank you for entertaining my attempt at 'de'-possessing a person :) –  Mallow Dec 6 '11 at 20:02

What you say is “I am her boyfriend”, which most of the time is more true.

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OP would probably object that his girlfriend (being of like mind) also recoils at possessive pronouns, so he can't be "hers" either! –  FumbleFingers Dec 6 '11 at 0:16
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I was going to suggest this myself. –  KitFox Dec 6 '11 at 0:40
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@FumbleFingers - I agree that the issue is still there to precisely the same degree, just in reverse, but how many women would really object to that? –  Steve314 Dec 6 '11 at 5:51
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@Steve314 - If the one that matters does then that is all that matters. –  Chad Dec 6 '11 at 14:02
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You know it's weird but I would not object to this as I would see a person who says this to be one, of their free will, giving themselves freely to the other person. It would be up to the other person as to whether or not it is reciprocal. This is good. –  Mallow Dec 6 '11 at 20:11

Simply use we:

We are partners.

We are seeing each other exclusively.

We are boyfriend and girlfriend. (If you really need to spell it out...)

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Same thinking as me. You just can't avoid "my" if you start with "she is". Starting with "we" is the best way round the issue. In fact, never mind the language as such, it's the best way to think of the (shared) relationship. –  FumbleFingers Dec 6 '11 at 0:22
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Yep; if it's not we, the relationship is doomed from the start. –  Gnawme Dec 6 '11 at 0:29
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Dang. I wish you'd told me that 30 years ago. I always thought it was odd that my (ex-)wife invariably said I where I would say we. –  FumbleFingers Dec 6 '11 at 0:36
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Also, "We are together" (although this can be ambiguous in some contexts). –  KitFox Dec 6 '11 at 0:42
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"We are dating" also works. –  fluffy Dec 6 '11 at 7:40

You could keep the possessive but drop the objectifying label of girlfriend (but only if you're ready to get serious, yknow?)

She's is my everything. She is my reason for waking up in the morning. She is the best thing that ever happened to me.

In the above, you've replaced "girlfriend/sweetie/main squeeze", which as nouns suggest ownership, with descriptive phrases where you are owning your feelings instead.

Personally, I'd go with just "my girlfriend." Sometimes it's nice to feel like someone is all yours.

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They don't suggest ownership. Not as such. Some see "my girlfriend" as "I own her"... but I hope they'd seek professional help. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 6 '11 at 14:55
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"girlfriend" is objectifying? How so? –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 6 '11 at 15:43
    
@ tony. Don't you think that the above expressions are over sentimental, bordering on ridiculous? Just as much as when someone refers to one's spouse as "the other half of my apple" or "the better half of me" –  Paola Apr 22 '12 at 23:12
    
Non-standard, and especially overly intimate or sentimental descriptions like these, could be inappropriate in many contexts. Like if she accompanies you to the bank when you apply for a loan and the bank officer says, "And who is this?", it would be distinctly weird to say, "Oh, she is my reason for being, the reason why I want to wake up in the morning. She is the light of my life." Like hey, they just want to know if she's going to co-sign the note. They don't want to hear a poetry recital. –  Jay 2 days ago

She is in a(n exclusive) (personal) relationship with me.

No implication of ownership, yet gets the point across without reading between the lines.

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Or shorten it to 'We are exclusive', I like this :), Thanks –  Mallow Dec 6 '11 at 19:50

I am sorry, but IMHO - the whole concept of this relationship is about ownership. Like a marriage is often seen as an "ownership contract", so does the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. it can not be avoided by language tricks. it is embedded in the concept of the word relationship itself, no matter how you say it.

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-1: Your interpretation of a relationship is entirely different to other peoples', and in particular seemingly the OP's. It may have been embedded in the concept of a relationship itself several decades ago, but thankfully the world has moved on since then. –  me_and Dec 6 '11 at 13:07
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-1 Your opinion on relationships is not relevant to the Question. Its not about saying it with out being possessive so much as saying it with out using the possessive. –  Chad Dec 6 '11 at 13:56
    
+0 / -0: I would say that given the commodification of culture (How relationships are presented in the mass media) I can see why one would think that. I can even imagine (rightly or wrongly) cavemen claiming ownership over cavewomen and this trickling down through the ages. I still disagree, Relationships should not be about ownership, but I can imagine, in some places, and for some people, they are. It is unfortunate. –  Mallow Dec 6 '11 at 20:40
    
Every word in a language embeds a concept.this is the most important aspect of a "word" . you simply can not separate a word from the concept it represents. in that light - as "irrelevant" (@chad) as my opinion might be as a "several decades old caveman" - it merely implies that you can not avoid using the possessive on a word that it´s own concept is possessive.this is also where the the linguistic term "possessive" itself came from. you simply can not use the word "husband" or "wife" (or "girlfriend" for that matter) without arousing the question "who´s?" -> continue due to characters limit. –  krembo99 Dec 7 '11 at 1:20
    
--> my last comment|| .. it is an integral part of the word - hence :possessive. and being possessive, it needs to be used with a possesive linguistic term. any other suggestion to call the relationship something else will enevitably change the concept of the relationship itself (because it will use a different word = different concept , see : "partner" ;"the love of my life"; "involved" or any other suggestions that people made on this page. ) . @ chad - that being said , can you please tell me once again why my do you think all this is irrelevant from the linguistic POV ? –  krembo99 Dec 7 '11 at 1:35

Boyfriend/girlfriend doesn't automatically mean exclusivity, or ownership. Gay people or polyamorous people sometimes have to introduce their relationships to others with an explicit definition of what the relationship actually is in the introduction itself: "This is Liz, the woman I sleep with". (As opposed to "Liz, my partner" <-- what business are you in?)

So the following get used:

  • Liz, the woman I sleep with
  • Liz, the woman I'm in a relationship with
  • Liz, the love of my life
  • Liz, my better half
  • Liz, the woman I'm dating

and so on.

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I really wish it wasn't necessary to clarify that sexualities other than straight do not automatically mean polyamorous. I agree with the clarification; I just wish it wasn't necessary. –  me_and Dec 6 '11 at 13:10
    
Explicitly stating the activities you do with said partner, to me, feels as though it divulges too much information that should not be so generously given to any stranger or passer by. I think it takes some of the magic away. (Like saying, 'voldamore' rather than saying 'he who shall not be named') For a lack of a better example. I do enjoy 'Liz, the love of my life', or 'my better half' if said with honesty. –  Mallow Dec 6 '11 at 19:57
    
You don't need to explicitly clarify that gay != polyamorous. You can simply use the word "or" instead of "and": "Gay people or polyamorous people sometimes …". –  MετάEd Dec 6 '11 at 20:48

Frankly, I would just say my and to heck with it. What the listener thinks you mean by 'my' is 'their' problem not 'yours'. The onus of justification is on those who seek to make perfectly sensible words somehow doubleplus ungood in their nutty little cult of language revisionism. =)

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Technically while some classify 'my' as a pronoun others classify it as an adjective albeit a personal one showing possession.

"Nomenclature While some classify the words my, your, etc. as possessive adjectives,[2] others, due to the differences noted above, do not consider them adjectives – at least, not in English – and prefer possessive determiners. In some other languages the equivalent parts of speech behave more like true adjectives, however.

The words my, your, etc. are sometimes classified, along with mine, yours etc., as possessive pronouns[3][4] or genitive pronouns, since they are the possessive (or genitive) forms of the ordinary personal pronouns I, you etc. However, unlike most other pronouns, they do not behave grammatically as stand-alone nouns, but instead qualify another noun – as in my book (contrasted with that's mine, for example, where mine substitutes for a complete noun phrase such as my book). For this reason, other authors restrict the term "possessive pronoun" to the group of words mine, yours etc. that substitute directly for a noun or noun phrase.[5][6]

Some authors who classify both sets of words as "possessive pronouns" or "genitive pronouns" apply the terms dependent/independent[7] or weak/strong[8] to refer, respectively, to my, your, etc. and mine, yours, etc. For example, under this scheme, my is termed a dependent possessive pronoun and mine an independent possessive pronoun.

[edit] "Possessive adjectives" in EnglishThe "possessive adjectives" in modern English are my, your, his, her, its, our, their and whose[9] (in Whose coat is this?, for example). All of them indicate definiteness, like the definite article the. Archaic forms are thy and mine (for my, used before a vowel, as in It is mine own work).

The possessive suffix -'s works similarly (as in Mary's husband, anyone's guess), but it is a clitic attached to the preceding determiner phrase.

In English, "possessive adjectives" come before any (genuine) adjectives, for example your big blue eyes, not big blue your eyes.

"Possessive adjectives" in English are sometimes misspelled with apostrophes ("it's", "her's")."

Quoted from wikipedia.

Spoken english sometimes differs from written English and colloqually, it really doesnt matter because thats the flexibility spoken language offers, otherwise we will all be uptight

You could say something colloqually

  1. We are dating.

  2. We are going out.

  3. We are partners.

  4. We are seeing each other.

  5. She is going out with me //some ownership

  6. I am going out with her

But really other than understanding the language does it really matters?

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Other than understanding the language does it really matter? I would say in general it probably doesn't, but I think there should be an alternative way to indicate that the relationship is based on mutual love and respect rather than possessiveness. I like your alternatives, thank you. –  Mallow Dec 6 '11 at 19:44
    
A relationship based on mutual love doesn't need explaining possessiveness, its when possessiveness takes possession. Mutual love is free and acceptance of that doesn't reflect the boundaries of possession as such a concern doesn't arrive. –  user182630 Aug 2 '13 at 17:00

You are incorrectly parsing this sentence:

She is my girlfriend

You are showing confusion as to what term the adjective "my" is modifying. It is modifying "girlfriend", not "she". You do not own her, you own your relationship to her.

It is very different from this phrase:

She is my girl.

Here "my" is most certainly modifying "girl" and asserting ownership over the person and not the relationship.

If your relationship to her is clearly defined by the term "girlfriend" then you will be most clear by saying that "she" is the person to whom "you" feel this relationship.

As an illustration, let's replace "girlfriend" with a different relationship term, "hero". If you say:

She's my hero.

You are not implying anything of ownership, or for that matter even reciprocity in your relationship to her. This is because "my hero" is the descriptive phrase, not "she's my".

All you are claiming ownership of with "She's my girlfriend" is your relationship to her. Not to her person.

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I like your compilier, girlfriend/boyfriend no longer becomes an adjective for the partner in question but rather an adjective about the type of relationship which exists between the two involved. A refreshing view, thanks. –  Mallow Dec 6 '11 at 19:52

Try and stress the existence of the relationship.

  • We are romantically involved.
  • We are in a relationship.

Although, a romantic relationship is mutually possessive, so I don't have a problem with "my girlfriend/wife"

It's a lot cleaner to say "That's John's wife."

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Lots of good stuff. As to the general "my", I give you an excerpt from C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters", behind this finely-crafted link.

"My" has lots of different meanings. Ownership is just one of them.

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If I understood the blog correctly the author is saying not to be concern about the possessive nature of 'my' because those who choose to use it in such a way as to indicate superiority over others will be easy to spot. Is this a correct interpretation? –  Mallow Dec 6 '11 at 19:48

We're involved.

She/he and I are involved.

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