Using mon, ma, mes, etc with parts of the body (possessive adjectives)

Normally the definite article (le/la/les) is used with body parts (j'ai mal à la tête)

See Using le, la, les with body parts and clothing (definite articles)

 

However, in the following special cases:

  • when special emphasis on the body part is desired, or 
  • when another person is involved 

the possessive adjective (sa,son,ta,ton etc.) is used instead of the definite article (le/la/les) to reduce ambiguity.

Montre-moi tes mains!  
Show me your hands!

J'ai pris sa main
I took her hand

Regarde son nez! 
Look at his nose!

 

Also, when the body part is the subject of the verb (rather than the object), possessive adjectives are used:

J'ai mal à la tête.
My head hurts.

BUT

Ma tête me fait mal.
My head hurts.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Montre-moi tes mains!  
Show me your hands!


Ma tête me fait mal.
My head hurts.


J'ai mal à la tête.
My head hurts.


Regarde son nez! 
Look at his nose!


J'ai pris sa main
I took her hand


Q&A

Richard

Kwiziq community member

8 September 2018

2 replies

"ma tête me fait mal" why not "la tête" since "me fait" already indicates it's your own head ?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

9 September 2018

9/09/18

As the lesson specifies, you use the personal pronoun also when special emphasis is put on the body part. I assume that's the case in the sentence you quote. However, without knowing the context that's impossible to tell.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

9 September 2018

9/09/18

As the lesson specifies, you use the personal pronoun alao when special emphasis is put on the body part. I assume that's the case in the sentence you quote. However, without knowing the context that's impossible to tell. 

helen

Kwiziq community member

19 January 2018

4 replies

Needing to show possession of body part

Are these both correct for saying, I wish my hair was thick: "Je me souhaite que les cheveux soient épais" or, " Je souhaite que mes cheveux soient epais?" Can you make basically any verb pronomial by adding reflexis pronouns and then know who's "body part" you're talking about? Thank you!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 January 2018

19/01/18

This would need the input of a native speaker for a definitive answer. But since German treats posession of body parts similarly to French, I am going to venture a guess. In this case I would the posessive "mes cheveux". -- Chris (not a native speaker).

helen

Kwiziq community member

20 January 2018

20/01/18

Thank you, Chris! I really appreciate your help. Hopefully, Aurelie will chime in here:)

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

21 January 2018

21/01/18

J'aimerais / je souhaite que mes cheveux soient épais is correct. You could say j'aimerais avoir les cheveux épais too. You cannot make a reflexive in this case .

helen

Kwiziq community member

21 January 2018

21/01/18

VERY helpful! Thank you!

Andy

Kwiziq community member

19 December 2016

3 replies

Je ne sens plus mes jambes

Hello, in the writing test for A2 Week 35 'Je ne sens plus mes jambes' is given as the answer for a translation of 'I can't feel my legs anymore.' Since in this sentence 'jambes' are the object, this left me a bit confused. ~Could you help please?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

19 December 2016

19/12/16

Bonjour Andy ! I know it's quite confusing, don't worry ! Here it's a case of needing to specify which legs as the context is not that explicit. For example, the verb here is not reflexive, as in "Je me brosse les dents." (I brush myself the teeth.), in which case we're given the owner of the teeth within the sentence. Here we need to say "mes jambes" as opposed to someone else's. And in the case of "J'ai des crampes dans les épaules", you use "les" because of the clear context set up in the previous sentence, but also of the use of "avoir" (J'ai des crampes) which emphasises the belonging of the shoulders to the person speaking, hence the use of "les".

Andy

Kwiziq community member

19 December 2016

19/12/16

Aha that makes perfect sense Merci beaucoup !

Janet

Kwiziq community member

9 October 2017

9/10/17

Sorry, I don't see the logic of your answer, re "Je ne sens plus mes jambes". I mean, wouldn't it be clear, if someone says, "I can't feel...." that they would be referring to their legs, and not someone else's? Unless we're talking about an X-rated film. ;-) Therefore, shouldn't the correct answer be "Je ne sens plus LES jambes" ?
Let me take a look at that...