I watch a lot of youtube, but I've also noticed this in movies. North americans tend to put the word "my" in front of stuff they tell you about e.g. "So I've got my grill fired up, I've got my oil heated" etc.

In Sweden we would just say "I've got the grill fired up and I've also heated the oil"

Another example is in the movie War of the worlds from 2005 when Rachel says something like "You should get TiVo, we've got TiVo at home, I can watch all MY shows after I've done my homework"

Note: I don't count "my" before homework, because that seems legit.

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    Because we Americans are selfish, possessive, and greedy? /sarc Sep 9 '15 at 8:11
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    "Because we Americans are selfish, possessive, and greedy?" Or maybe it's just common usage. - as most of speech is.
    – user116032
    Sep 9 '15 at 17:29
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    @ravinki Because that’s how it’s done in English. Adjectives derived from country names are capitalised too, including when they’re nominalised; so Swedish/Norwegian/American/Swedes/Norwegians/Americans are all capitalised in English. And this question has nothing to do with Americans—it’s a question of the English language. English tends to use possessive determiners in some cases where some other languages would use articles. And in your last example, Swedish too would use a possessive determiner before shows, not a definite article—that would change the meaning. Sep 9 '15 at 17:50
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    In cookery programmes, come to think of it, I do hear "my" being used a bit. I think it's just being friendly. I've got my herbs chopped up nicely, and now I heat up the oil in my frying pan. Add my onions... etc. That strikes me as being homely, down to earth, not selfish or egoistical as in: Those are my onions, not anyone else's! If you could find a youtube link with someone saying my several times, when "the" could be used instead, I'd upvote your question. I might even think about placing a bounty.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 10 '15 at 6:23
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    @Mari-LouA Here is a youtube link with a girl called Laura Vitale. She has a cooking show, and as you say, people with cooking shows tend to use "my" more often that others. Granted she does substitute "my" for "some" a couple of times, but she says e.g. "my glass bowl" "my apple sauce" etc. link
    – ravinki
    Sep 16 '15 at 20:36

It is because a noun phrase in English calls for a determiner, and in English (as opposed to other languages, such as Italian), possesive pronouns function as determiners. To quote the linked Wikipedia article:

The basic pronominal possessive determiners in modern English are my, your, his, her, its, our, their and whose (as in Whose coat is this? and the man whose car was stolen). As noted above, they indicate definiteness, like the definite article the.

As others have pointed out, the word my is often (for example, in my grill) arguably a semantically more suitable determiner than the, simply because it better conveys which grill is being meant.

Notably, it has nothing primarily to do with possession (cf. my street), but solely the combination of a grammatical obligation and a call for semantic clarity.


Using "my" in these cases emphasizes a personal connection to the subject, whether through choice, ownership, or another quality. My shows indicates the shows this person chooses to watch (likely regularly), which says something about their identity. My grill and my oil highlight the personal connection to the implements when cooking. Tools or implements in particular seem to get this treatment frequently as they are agents of the speaker in a way.

Having some experience with Scandinavian mores, I'm not surprised that Swedish idioms would tend toward the less personal.

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