What's the difference between свой (своя и т.д.) and мой (моя и т.д.) when Russian people speak they seem aware of the difference but still I can't wrap my head around it.

  • 3
    What's the difference between my and own?
    – Anixx
    Nov 20, 2015 at 19:15
  • @Anixx in English I can say "I'm in MY room" but can't say "I'm in OWN room" ...
    – Ziad
    Nov 20, 2015 at 19:17

5 Answers 5


In this meaning свой means "belonging to the last agent in the sentence".

Алиса отдала Бобу свои деньги // Alice gave Bob her own (Alice's) money

Боб отдал Алисе свои деньги // Bob gave Alice his own (Bob's) money

Алиса отдала Бобу его деньги // Alice gave Bob his (not necessarily Bob's) money

Алиса отдала Бобу её деньги // Alice gave Bob her (not necessarily Alice's) money

The last phrase is normally only used in Russian when "her" means "belonging to a third female person, neither the subject nor object of the sentence", that third person being obvious from the context.

For instance:

Ева дала Алисе пальто. Алиса отдала её пальто Бобу.

Ева дала Алисе пальто. Алиса отдала своё пальто Бобу.

The "last agent" thing might be a little bit confusing, as sometimes it's not clear what the agent is.

For instance:

Алиса дала Бобу своё пальто // Alice gave Bob her coat

Bob's definitely not the agent here, so своё unequivocally means "Alice's"

Алиса попросила Боба постирать своё пальто // Alice asked Bob to wash his coat.

Alice and Bob are both agents (Alice asks, Bob washes), but Bob goes last in the sentence.

Алиса попросила у Боба постирать своё пальто // Alice asked Bob for washing her (or his) coat

This is a bit confusing, as it's not clear who'll be doing the washing, so not clear whether Bob is an agent here or not. This sentence can be interpreted both ways.

Note that the "last agent" rule only works within a single sentence clause, it does not work across dependent clauses:

Алиса любит своих детей. // Alice loves her kids

*Алиса хочет, чтобы свои дети любили её // This is ungrammatical

Алиса хочет, чтобы её дети любили её // Alice wants her kids to love her.

You can't use свои in the second sentence, as on this dependency level there is no agent before свои.

  • Use of свой is optional if subject (possessor) is 1st or 2nd person (in nominative case). Use of свой is mandatory if subject is in 3rd person (nominative case). e.g., 'Я потерял мой вумажник.,' but 'Она потеряла свой кошелёк'. May 20, 2022 at 6:31
  • "Алиса попросила Боба постирать своё пальто" - This can mean both, absolutely unclear from the context. "Алиса попросила у Боба постирать своё пальто" - this is just wrong because she asked for service, not a thing, and as such "у" (from) is not applicable otherwise it sounds "Alice asked FROM Bob to wash the coat"
    – Anixx
    Jun 2, 2022 at 8:36

Свой is a nice word which allows to enliven the speech avoiding those permanent occurences of pairs me / my (or you / your and so on).

As a rule of thumb, try not to use я/мой, ты/твой etc. both in the same sentence but replace "мой" (or "твой", "его" etc.) with "свой".

You may think that "I am in my room" looks OK, but Russian people hate sentences such as "Я в моей комнате". In Russian it sounds as if you state twice that it's your room, because your companion doubts this.

To say it short, "свой" has no additional meaning except "мой" / "твой" / "его" but you have to use this word often to speak Russian well.

  • 4
    An old Russian teacher of mine put it nicely. In English we might say "I put my hand in my pocket". But Russians feel that the "my"s are redundant, beacuse you would scarcely be putting anyone else's hand into anyone else's pocket... :)
    – David
    Jul 23, 2021 at 3:13

One thing to note is that свой can be applied to other people or yourself.

Вы идёте со своей женой?

Я иду со своей женой

Where as мой can only ever be applied to yourself.

  • so do "Вы идете со своей женой?" and "Вы идете с вашей(твоей) женой?" have the same meaning?
    – Ziad
    Nov 20, 2015 at 19:13
  • I would say so.
    – rsavchenko
    Nov 20, 2015 at 19:17
  • @Vitaly oops that's what the edit is there for XD
    – rsavchenko
    Nov 20, 2015 at 20:13

As I understood, the difference is that "свой" means to be owned by object/subject which you are talking about. "Она взяла свой кофе", "Он взял свой телефон"

But in the case of "мой", you should use it when you(teller) own this object, but it is connected to other person/people. "Егор взял мой телефон", "Анна вошла в мой кабинет".

In case if the subject is you (you're telling from 1st person), you should use "свой".


I’m a native Russian speaker. I’ll try to explain :)

Свой can be thought of as a reflexive possessive. As “one’s own”. Its meaning depends on the subject.

For example:

Я люблю свой город. (I love my own city.)

Now if I love, let’s say, his city, I say:

Я люблю его город.

Because it’s not my city, it’s his city.

Now, I can say я люблю мой город, but that looks grammatically correct but it sounds odd to a Russian speaker’s ears. So I said basically the same as my first sentence.

You use свой when the object belongs to the subject. Again, it changes meaning.

Let’s use her as the subject. She loves her city.

Она любит… город.

Can you guess? Её or свой?

Right, it’s свой! Because it’s hers, and she is the subject. It’s her own city.

So свой, object=subject

Other possessives, object≠subject

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