In her latest video series, Patricia talks about the different ways of expressing possession in French. Though she mainly focuses on possessive adjectives (which correspond to "my," "your," "his/her," etc.) and possessive pronouns (which correspond to "mine," "yours," "his/hers," etc.), Patricia also uses another possessive construction throughout the videos. It's the expression à + stressed pronoun (moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, elles), which can be used as an alternative to a possessive pronoun:
Si cette tasse est à moi... je dis: c'est la mienne.
If this cup is mine... I say: it's mine.
Captions 27-30, Le saviez-vous? - Les pronoms possessifsPlay Caption
This expression usually follows the verb être, as in the example above, but you'll also find it in other contexts:
J'ai trouvé une robe à elle dans le grenier.
I found a dress of hers in the attic.
Unlike possessive adjectives and pronouns, which change depending on the gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) of the possessed object, this construction corresponds to the gender and number of the possessor:
Et si je veux dire que cette chaussure est à lui...
And if I want to say that this shoe is his...
je vais dire: C'est sa chaussure.
I'm going to say: It's his shoe.
Captions 55-59, Le saviez-vous? - Les adjectifs possessifsPlay Caption
Since chaussure is feminine and singular, the possessive adjective modifying it also needs to be feminine and singular (sa). But sa chaussure can either mean "his shoe" or "her shoe" depending on context. We know that Patricia means "his shoe" here because she says cette chaussure est à lui (this shoe is his). If she had said cette chaussure est à elle (this shoe is hers), then sa chaussure would mean "her shoe."
You'll often find this construction in combination with a possessive adjective. Let's say you're at a dog park and you're telling someone whose dog is whose. If you say c'est mon chien (that's my dog), they'll immediately know that the dog in question belongs to you. But if you say c'est son chien (that's his or her dog), they might not know who you're referring to. You can specify by saying:
C'est son chien à elle. / C'est son chien à lui.
That's her dog. / That's his dog.
The expression c'est à + stressed pronoun also has another meaning that has nothing to do with possession. It's the equivalent of the English expression "it's up to me, you, etc.":
C'est à toi de décider ce que tu veux faire.
It's up to you to decide what you want to do.
Thanks for reading! Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.