For answers to my workbook, I wrote the following:

После уроков мы ходили в лабораторию к своему профессору.
В воскресенье мы поедем в гости к своим друзьям. Мы уже звонили своим друзьям и сказали им об этом.

But what the answer key to the workbook said was:

После уроков мы ходили в лабораторию к нашему профессору.
В воскресенье мы поедем в гости к нашим друзьям. Мы уже звонили нашим друзьям и сказали им об этом.

Question: Is it OK or preferred to use наш instead of свой when the subject is мы?

I am confused because I believed it is correct/preferred to use свой instead of её (его, мой, твой) when the subject is она (он, я, ты). This all corresponds to the answers given for various exercises in my workbook's answer key.

In addition to using свой instead of наш when the subject is мы, I'm also not sure about using свой instead of ваш (их) when the subject is вы (они).

Is the rule different for some reason for мы? Is this a mistake (repeated twice) in the answer key?

EDIT: The book isn't even consistent in its convention; the following are also from it:

В среду мы ходили в общежитие к своим друзьям. В среду мы были в общежитии у своих друзей. Летом они ездили на родину к своим родителям. Летом они ездили на родине у своих родителей.

  • 3
    It looks redundantly. IRL I would say: После уроков мы ходили в лабораторию к профессору. В воскресенье мы поедем к друзьям. Мы уже звонили им и сказали об этом.
    – yalov
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 0:58
  • 1
    Not going to post this as an answer bc I'm not a native or near-native speaker. But my sense is that "svoj" is used when the thing belongs to the speaker; but the particular pronouns like "nash" are used when the speaker(s) belong to the thing. So for example, you guys don't own the teacher (the teacher has other students, of whom you are only a few): the teacher isn't a part of "yours." On the other hand, you are a part of "the teacher's" and the teacher owns you. So in this case we use the less-pointed "nash." Whereas "svoj" seems to me a little pointed with regards to ownership; thus it +
    – SAH
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 10:27
  • 1
    usually feels most natural (to me) when used with a singular subject, and when describing things like a part of the body, an integral personal possession, etc.
    – SAH
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 10:28

5 Answers 5


William, that's a preety hard question to answer, but i'll try to do my best,so:

Those tables look very accurate http://www.russianlessons.net/grammar/pronouns.php. As well as those ones http://russianlearn.com/grammar/category/possessive_pronouns.

It's pretty clear that the stadndard usage of those posessive pronouns will be:

Когда ты отдашь мне мою книгу? Я скоро отдам тебе твою книгу. Когда ты отдашь ей ее книгу? Когда ты отдашь ему его книгу? Нам нужна наша книга. Вам нужна ваша книга? And so on.

And it gets harder with "one's own". As I would imagine, it's more for generalizing, say: Каждому нужна своя книга. (everybody needs his/her book)

BUT. NOT EXACTLY GENERALIZING. And this fact made me think that's gonna be hard to explain that.

I've come up with the thought that we tend to use "свой" in imperatives E.G.

Подними свою руку! Подними свои руки. Забери свою книгу. Иди к своему профессору! (we can say this way if we are irritated (for example if the person quotes the professor too often or anything) So it definitely has to do with emphasis Напишите свой адрес. Расскажите о своем брате. (but we can also say "о вашем брате") Bearing in mind the examples from your book, I'd say that accosding to the rule, it is more correct to say "вашем". While you can never say under any sircumstances Расскажи о твоем брате. It is just plain wrong. So it is gonna be: Расскажи о своем брате.

Then the next thing I'd like to pay your attention to will be the examples of the usage of possessive pronouns with the members of the family, and, say, with a word "professor" (I just decided to use this word because it is used in your textbook) So, now I'll try to provide you with examples of the usage of the words "a sister" and "a professor"

Statements (со местоимениями "моя" и "своя"): Это моя сестра. Я люблю свою сестру. Я люблю нашу сестру (if it matters that there are some other siblins). Расскажи о моей сестре. Моя сестра ему нравится.

Questions (с местоимениями "твоя" и "своя") : Это твоя сестра? Ты любишь свою сестру? Ты любишь вашу сестру? Что бы ты мог сказать о своей сестре? Как думаешь, ему нравится твоя сестра?

I sould say that looking at what I wrote above I'm like "What the hell, there's no logic"

I mean posessive pronouns are soooo semantically tricky.

But definitely I know where to use which and there's what I think: If you want to ask somebody about a person or an object that either is related to him/her or belongs to him/her, you use "свой" Раскажи о своем велосипеде. Расскажи о своем брате. Расскажи о своей книге.

BUT. Расскажи о вашем профессоре. (because he/she teaches not only you, typically there's a group) Расскажите о вашей книге (because it's a polite form so you use plural) (or because you're asking several people) And so I can infer that свой is typically not used when you ask several people about the people related to them or the thing belonging to them. And that looks like the answer to your question.

NOW ABOUT "РАССКАЖИ О МОЕЙ СЕСТРЕ" That seems pretty logic. because if you say "расскажи о своей сестре" that would mean "tell about your sister"

NOW ABOUT "ЭТО ТВОЯ СЕСТРА?" you can't ask "Это своя сестра?" cause that sounds conpletely illogic. But we do have a question "Это свои?" When for example you're at war and so you have "your men" and "not your men" who are "свои" и "чужие" respectively.

So now let's talk about a professor

a professor typically gives lectures to several people, as I've mentioned above and so it is preferable to say "ваш", because if you say "расскажи о своем профессоре" that makes sense, but saying so you ignore the fact that he/she teaches other people as well (but it's ok to say so as I presume) So the examples would be statements: Наш профессор читает интересные лекции. Наш профессор хорошо преподает. Наш профессор ценит своих студентов. questions: Вы не могли бы расскать о вашем профессоре? Ваш профессор хорошо преподает? Ваш профессор ценит своих студентов?

You can probably ask why not "его студентов". We can certainly use "его студентов" but in another context. We'll say Он любит своих студентов. Я люблю свою сестру. Он любит свою сестру.

But if we word the sentence differently, we use "его, ее, мою..." Его студентов обокрали. (кто-то обокрал) Мою сестру преследуют (кто-то преследует мою сестру) Иван любит его сестру.

By the way, it's ok to say "Иван любит его сестру" when talking about someone else's sister, it would be translated "Ivan loves his(someone else's sister). But if you say "Иван любит свою сестру" that means that "Ivan loves his(his own) sister

I really hope that helps


Both forms are OK. Though there could be a (very) small difference.

Russian speakers often tend to use the word "свой" as exclusive term, while "наш" is inclusive. Let's consider the following situation: there are three persons: person A (speaker), person B (whom A talks to) and person C (who just keeps silence for a moment). So if A says "to our friend" what he really means? This is either the friend of A and C, or the friend of A, B and C altogether. IMO, it's a bit more natural in Russian to use form of "свой" in the first case, and the form of "наш" in the second one. Though even here it's not a strict rule. So if Russian speaker really needs to stress it's "the friend of all of us" he rather says "наш с тобой друг", or "наш общий друг", or something like that. Otherwise it's still a bit unclear as both forms could be used interchangeably.


When наш is used in the inclusive sense (that is, talking about our common professor), then it is not at all synonymous with свой (which would imply the professor is ours but not yours). However, it is hard to know if which meaning is intended in your examples.

In any case, these phrases would sound as natural without determiners, so you may safely skip them unless there is a risk for confusion.


With the first and second persons, singular or plural, the use of свой is optional, but preferred :

Я потерял свою книгу./Я потерял мою книгу Напишите свой адрес./ Напишите ваш адрес.

Свой should be used with the third person, singular or plural:

Он потерял свою книгу.

По Розенталю:

Возможно синонимическое употребление притяжательных местоимений мой-свой,твой-свой и т.п. Я предаюсь моим мечтам (Пушкин).Я не потерплю в своем доме воров (Чехов)

Sometimes possessive pronouns are redundant, because the situation itself clears up the matter (к нашим друзьям– к друзьям).

  • So for мы both наш and свой are correct? Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 0:50

"Свой" is what belongs to you or relative to you, of your own and "твой, наш, ее, их..." means..something similar):
Уберите свою собаку от моих детей!
Уберите вашу собаку от моих детей! - both possible
Ваша собака не кусается?
Забери свой компьютер из сервис-центра. (your computer)
Заодно забери и мой компьютер из сервис-центра.
Его жену украли инопланетяне.
Он отдал инопланетянам свою жену сам.
Мой телефон не работает, дай мне свой.
Моя газета не читается, дай мне свою.
Моя газета потерялась, можно я почитаю твою?
У меня есть три сестры.
Я берегу своих сестер.
Моих сестер зовут 1,2,3.
Как зовут твою сестру?

  • Помоги мне найти свой телефон!
  • Мой телефон у меня в кармане.

  • Помоги мне найти мой телефон!

  • А где ты его видел в последний раз?

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