My gut feeling tells me that sentences such as

Own mistakes have to be dealt with first.

Own experience matters the most.

We present own results.

are not correct, and I would supplement "own" with, for example, "your" or "my".

Is the above use of "own" just unusual, or is there a general rule saying that "own" always requires the possessive of a noun or a possessive pronoun?

The Oxford dictionary at least suggests that "own" cannot be used after an article:

Own cannot be used after an article:

I need my own room. (Not: I need an own room.)

It's good to have your own room. (Not: It's good to have the own room.)

Are there other words for which that is also the case?

("own" without a pronoun is often found in English texts written by German native speakers, because in German it is perfectly fine to say "Eigene Fehler ...".)

  • It doesn't need a possessive pronoun: you can say John's own room. Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 10:59
  • @PeterShor Agreed, but in your example there is a noun, John. Do you know if I can also use "own" at the beginning of a sentence as in the above examples? Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 11:01
  • 3
    Not in my dialect. They should be "one's own" or "your own" for the first two sentences, and "our own" for the third. The OED has some examples for that, but mainly in regional dialects or with respect to relatives (an own child, an own cousin, an own daughter), and they all sound wrong to me. For example, "I do not think my mother's sisters could have been kinder to me if I had been an own daughter." Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 11:09
  • 2
    @PeterShor Is not the point that 'own'is a sort of adjectival suffix which does not work alone e.g. 'Students' own accommodation', 'his own car' etc. I am not sufficiently a grammarian to explain this further, but that is my amateur assessment. I can however think of one instance where it does stand alone, namely an 'own goal'. But that, presumably, is because it is part of a noun phrase.
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


According to the CaGEL, the adjective own is unique amongst adjective because it only occurs with a genitive subject-determiner.

A genitive subject-determiner is either:

  • a possessive pronoun such as my, your her and so forth: my own orangutan
  • a genitively inflected Noun Phrase such as John 's or Mary 's: Mary's axe

There are a very few exception to this rule, but they all occur in fixed phrases such as an own goal.

In short we cannot use the adjective own without a preceding noun.

[CaGEL is The Cambridge grammar of the English language Huddleston and Pullum, 2002]


To find other examples you'd look for other reflexive-like, slightly redundant noun/pronoun modifiers/'emphasizers?' and I can't find/think of any, so to make this an answer (instead of a comment, where it probably belongs, but for which I don't have enough 'reputation') I'll say:

No, there are no other words for which this is also the case.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.