Are possessive pronouns disappearing from English? When my kids were young, they just seemed to ignore them. They’d say, That’s your one. This is my one! Leave it alone! I’m sure we did the natural parental correction procedure, and not just because we’re in ELT. Parents everywhere respond to “wrong” patterns” by replying with a correct pattern rather than with explanation or correction. e.g.
- That’s her one!
- Yes, it’s hers.
The thing is, nearly twenty years on, they and their friends still seem to prefer ‘my one’ to ‘mine’ and ‘your one’ to yours. I noticed it again while shopping the other day, where a couple in their twenties, both with “educated accents” were arguing the merits of a bookcase in Homebase.
- It’s bigger than our one.
- Yes, but our one’s nicer wood.
It could be argued that possessive pronouns are near redundant in conversation. If someone said, Which is your plate? then That’s my plate is just as quick as That’s mine and removes a degree of ambiguity. That’s my one doesn’t remove the ambiguity, and sounds somewhat childish to my ear, but to a child the sound difference between ‘my one’ and ‘mine’ is tiny.
In ELT, possessive pronouns have slipped further down the grammar area of the syllabus in recent textbooks . The two late 70s guides to syllabus design were the contrasting English Grammatical Structure (Alexander, Close, O’Neill, Stannard Allan) and The Threshold Level. Both include at least mine and yours in the earliest stages. In Streamline they appeared in level one, then later textbooks relegated them to level two or level three. The point is that you can cover any given situation by substituting possessive adjective (or possessive determiner if you prefer) + noun / one.
I have a suspicion that the survivors will be mine and ours, because the British English invitations All back to mine (= my home) and All back to ours have become fixed formulas or chunks.