I have a question about the appropriate usage the possessive personal pronoun "mine" over the possessive determiner "my".

I have done some research and understood the differences between them, but my questions isn't quite about that. One of the main purposes of pronouns is to eliminate repetitions, yet I cannot be sure whether to use it or not if there isn't a possessive determiner such as my, your, her, their etc that establishes the noun being referred to.

For example, I thought of the sentence below:

  • Your dog attacked mine! ('Mine' used as a substitute for 'my dog', as 'your dog' established the noun in question)

The above is no doubt a better construction than:

  • Your dog attacked my dog! Which sounds somewhat awkward in comparison.

However, if there isn't a possessive determiner preceding it in a sentence:

  • A wild dog attack mine!

    It sounds jarring and not as natural as:

  • A wild dog attack my dog or My dog was attacked by a wild one.

I don't know if there is a grammar rule that would explain my question, but fellow memebers, is it still correct to use the possessive personal pronoun (such as mine) in the case above, or can it only be used if a possessive determiner (such as your) is used before it?

Many thanks!

1 Answer 1


The usage of adjectival possessives (your, my, etc.) vs. substantival possessives (yours, mine, etc.) is determined by whether it is the head of the phrase, not by whether another possessive has been used in the sentence.

For a simplistic explanation: substantival possessives behave like third-person personal pronouns (he, him, it, etc.) in that they replace a noun that has been previously used. In “Your dog attacked mine!” and “A wild dog attack mine!”, mine refers to the noun dog. It doesn't matter whether your has been used in the same sentence.

  • Thanks for providing the proper grammar terms. So basically, adjectival possessives can be used as the head of the phrase to introduce the subject, while substantival possessives has to be used as a substitute for a noun that has been mentioned already. In the sentence "A wild dog attacked mine", the possessive is correctly used to refer to the dog.
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 22:30
  • Substantival possessives are the head of the phrase. Adjectival possessives are always the dependent of a noun. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 12:13
  • How are substantival possessives (mine, yours etc.) head of the phrase? Could you please give me a few sentence examples?
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 2:29
  • I thought that it cannot be used as the head as it has to refer to a noun.
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 2:43

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