Quick answer – ‘su’ and ‘sus’ are possessive adjectives, which are basically words used to show possession / ownership of a noun. Both ‘su’ and ‘sus’ can mean ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘its’ or ‘their’, but ‘su’ is used to refer to a SINGULAR noun, whereas ‘sus’ refers to PLURAL nouns.
To make things even more complicated (eek!), when used in the formal “usted” form, both ‘su’ and ‘sus’ translate to ‘your’.
But worry not as I´m going to carefully guide you through EXACTLY how to use these two super useful words.
I´ve even added a couple of exercises at the end so you can test your newfound knowledge!
Let´s get into it!
- ‘Su’ and ’sus’ are what we call “possessive adjectives” and both can mean ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘its’ or ‘their’.
- They also both translate to ‘your’ in the formal “usted” form.
Unlike in English, Spanish possessive adjectives have to agree in NUMBER with the noun they´re referring to (i.e., the possession or thing) –
- We use ‘su’ when the noun is singular (Me gusta su vestido = I like her dress)
- We use ‘sus’ when the noun is plural (Mario está vendiendo sus departamentos en Playa del Carmen = Mario is selling his apartments in Playa del Carmen)
When to use ‘su’
As I’ve already mentioned, ‘su’ is the Spanish equivalent of ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘its’ and ‘their’.
Hmmm, ok …
… but how exactly do these “possessive adjective” things work in Spanish?
Well, just as in English, you need to decide who the “owner” of the item in question is and work out which the corresponding “possessive adjective” is.
So, in the sentence “The boy ate his food” (“El niño comió su comida”), the boy is the “owner” of the food.
The personal pronoun that we´d use to replace “the boy” is ‘he’ (or ‘él’), so we use the possessive adjective ‘his’ (or ‘su’).
Here´s another example –
The men wanted their money! = ¡Los hombres querían su dinero!
In this sentence the “owner” of the money is “the men”, which this time corresponds to the personal pronoun ‘they’.
In English we´d therefore use the possessive adjective ‘their’ … but in Spanish we’d use ‘su’ again as it also corresponds to the personal pronoun ‘ellos’ (easy, right?).
Here´s all the info you need when deciding which possessive adjective corresponds to which personal pronoun –
|Masculine singular||Feminine singular||English |
|Él/Ella/Usted (He/She/It/You)||su||su||his / her / its / your|
|Vosotros (You)||vuestro||vuestra||your (plural)|
|Ustedes (You formal)||su||su||your|
And here are some more examples (yay!) –
Su cabello es rojo. (de Mariana)
Her hair is red. (referring to Mariana)
Israel se ensució su camisa.
Israel got his shirt dirty.
El pero está buscando su traste.
The dog is looking for its bowl.
¡Quieren su comida ahora mismo!
They want their food right now!
Just remember that ‘su’ can also correspond to the formal “usted” form
Let´s look at some examples –
Te ayudo con su bolsa, señor.
Let me help you with your bag, mister.
In this sentence “usted” is used to refer to an elderly person
Paciente – ¿Y cuál es su diagnóstico?
Doctor – Vas a estar bien, pero es recomendable que no comas carne roja.
Patient – What´s your diagnosis?
Doctor – You’re going to be fine, but I recommend that you don´t eat red meat.
In this sentence the speaker uses “usted” to refer to a person of authority (i.e., a doctor)
Erika´s note – when we use ‘su’ in Spanish, we often have to listen carefully to the context in order to know exactly who is being referred to.
The “informal” ‘tu’ is actually much less ambiguous than the formal “usted” as it always translates to ‘your’!
Other (less common) uses of ‘su‘ (GOOD TO KNOW!)
- ‘Su’ is used to address a monarch or a very high-ranking person (think kings, queen, emperors, etc.).
So, “Your Highness” and “Your Majesty” translate to “Su Majestad” and “Su Alteza” in Spanish.
- It can also be used BEFORE a proper noun (like Rupert, Erika, Londres, etc.) if you want to refer to it in an affectionate way.
For example – Por fin María se va a casar con su Nacho = At last María´s going to get married to her beloved Nacho
When to use ‘sus’
So, we´ve already established that, just like in English, possessive adjectives in Spanish correspond to who exactly is doing the owning (‘yo’, ‘tú’, ‘ellos’, etc.).
But in Spanish they also need to agree in NUMBER with the possession itself.
And, well, that´s where ‘sus’ comes in …
We basically use ‘sus’ when the “owner” is ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ or ‘they’ AND there´s more than one possession or thing (‘zapatos’, ‘carteras’, ‘casas’, ‘aventuras’, ‘mesas’, etc.)
I´ve made a chart of all the Spanish possessive adjectives in their PLURAL form to help you better understand –
|Masculine plural||Feminine plural||English equivalent|
|Él/Ella/Usted (He/She/It/You)||sus||sus||his / her / its / your|
|Vosotros (You)||vuestros||vuestras||your (plural)|
|Ustedes (You formal)||sus||sus||your|
Example time –
¡Están disfrutando de sus vacaciones! (ellos)
They’re enjoying their holidays!
¡Robaron sus motocicletas!
Their motorycles were stolen!
Les gustaron mucho sus bebidas.
They liked their drinks very much.
And, just like ‘su’, ‘sus’ can also be used in the formal “usted” form –
¿Se llevó sus documentos?
Did you take your documents with you?
Hay que intentar* preservar sus tradiciones.
We need to try to preserve your traditions.
*Erika´s top tip – you could also use ‘tratar de’ here! If you want to know the difference between ‘tratar’ and ‘intentar’, be sure to check out our article on the topic!
Now you know how to use possessive adjectives like a master (yippee!).
Before you go, be sure to check out the exercises down below … and definitely head over to our article on ‘de’ vs ‘del’ if you´re in the mood for more Spanish grammar.
‘Su’ vs ‘sus’ quiz
Form a new sentence using a possessive adjective –
- Yo tengo novio. (Ismael) — > Mi novio se llama Ismael.
- María tiene un gato. (negro) — >
- Ella tiene una amiga. (muy alta) — >
- Ustedes tienen una casa. (muy lujosa) — >
- Tienen una hija. (15 años) — >
Write the following sentences in plural –
- Su amigo es mexicano. — > Sus amigos son mexicanos.
- Su collar está en la mesa. — >
- Su toalla es rosa. — >
- Su perro está sucio. — >
- Mi novio se llama Ismael.
- Su gato es negro.
- Su amiga es muy alta.
- Su casa es muy lujosa.
- Nuestra hija tiene 15 años.
- Sus amigos son mexicanos.
- Sus collares están en la mesa.
- Sus toallas son rosas.
- Mis perros están sucios.