During English class, we have been diagramming sentences, as described at http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/, and have had some confusion as to whether the term "my" should be considered an adjective, possessive pronoun, or prepositional phrase. This question at ESE seems to indicate that it is meant as a prepositional phrase. In sentences such as:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. (The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

the "my" seems to be used as a prepositional pronoun, but is diagrammed as an adjective would be.

Sentence Diagram

  • 1
    The diagram is wrong. I've been turning over in my head is a relative clause modifying advice. The that has been deleted. There is no and and no it in the original sentence, though they're in the diagram. Plus the diagram puts the initial prepositional phrase in my younger and more vulnerable years as if it's an adjective, modifying advice, instead of an temporal adverb phrase modifying the whole sentence. I'm afraid you'd better find a more accurate textbook if this is copied from it. – John Lawler Feb 12 '15 at 15:19
  • 2
    Which one's the Bakerloo Line? – Edwin Ashworth Feb 12 '15 at 16:05
  • @JohnLawler I'll tell my teacher that, this is copied from a website but was used in class. – Pip Feb 12 '15 at 23:29

Syntacticians often consider "my" to be a definite determiner, in the same category as "the", "that", and possessives in "'s". You might reasonably consider it to be a logical prepositional phrase, since "my father" means *"the father of me", which has been changed by replacing the "the" (expressing the definiteness) with the possessor "me's" expressed as "my" (due to arbitrary English morphology). However, grammatically, "my" is like "the" in its position within a noun phrase.


The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston & Pullum, 2002) regard my as a pronoun used in Determiner function. It is definitely not a preposition or an adjective! It has none of the syntactic properties of either prepositions or adjectives!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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