I would like to know if there is a difference between "to be possessive of someone" and "to be possessive towards someone".

I have seem both of them being used, but I'm not sure if there is a difference in meaning or use cases. Any help would be appreciated.

Larger Edit:

Ok, after spending a few more hours searching Google I found a few interesting things. (I searched before, but didn't find anything helpful, that's why I initially came here.) I'll leave them here for anyone else with a similar question:

First of, there are quite a few websites that use "possessive towards" in the same sense as "possessive of/about". Among them a bunch of books that Google archived, but also some UK student website and some kind of Magazine.

Now, what's really interesting is the book "Machiavellian Intelligence II: Extensions and Evaluations", that answered my question.

In said book it is stated, that they used the expression "possessive towards" rather than the "more grammatically correct" (so "possessive towards" is just less correct and not incorrect?) "possessive near" or "possessive around" to make something clear. [side note: So I was kind of right with an assumption I had that "possessive towards" could mean something like "possessive around"]

Namely: Animal A was "possessive of" animal B, but only towards animal C. They used "towards" rather than "near" or "around" because there were other animals "around" to [like D,E ect], who A was not "possessive towards" in regard to their interactions with B.

So to put it simple: A didn't like C "talk to" B, but was fine with others talking to B, whether C was around or not. So A was only "possessive towards" C and not "possessive around/near" C. They used that specific terminology to make the difference clear.

You can read up on it yourself in the book I mentioned if you want to check what I said. But let me tell you I had to read the paragraph several times to understand what I read. [maybe I'm just slow lol]


"possessive of/about" = I want it/person all for me

"possessive around/near" = I am possessive of whatever, if person X is in my vicinity

"possessive towards"= Not 100% grammatically correct, but usable in special cases like the above. (And used wrongly as "possessive of/about" by a bunch of other people apparently.)

God finding that answer took forever. What an ordeal. So, I'm going to stick with that conclusion for now unless someone wants to add anything to that. Over and out.

2 Answers 2


I would think 'possessive towards' seems a little clunky in terms of grammar. 'Possessive of' works better followed by the object of the sentence. Possessive of his birthday cake. Possessive of her dog. If you were to swap 'of' out for 'towards' it's vague and seems inaccurate. Think of the word angry. If I'm angry towards someone it really needs clarification. It's made indirect and broad by the word 'towards'. If I'm angry with them it's implied that they specifically have offended me somehow. I hope that doesn't muddy the waters at all. Use 'of' over 'towards' after possessive- it's more focused and direct.

  • Given the two choices I'd also go with "possessive of" rather than "possessive towards", but this usage of "possessive of" could be replaced with "jealous of" in all cases for a better sounding description, in my opinion.
    – Dmann
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 21:02
  • Ok, that settles the question which one to use when I want to say something like "They only belong to me." But I was also wondering somewhat if "possessive towards" could be interpreted as "I'm very possessive of (my) things when that specific person is around." Or should I just forget about it wholly?
    – Clayer One
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 21:26
  • Just wanted to say thanks to you too spherical.french. You helped me get to my conclusion which I edited into my original post. Cheers!
    – Clayer One
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 23:54

"Possessive" is a state of mind. For example, from the Free Dictionary: "Having or manifesting a desire to control or dominate another, especially in order to limit that person's relationships with others". Consider "obsessive", likewise a state of mind. One is possessive "about" something or someone. Neither "of" nor "towards" is quite right.

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