I was reading a sentence and asked to answer a True/False question:

Juan y Antonio viven con su hermano. The possessive adjective in bold is masculine and singular. True/False?

I thought that because Juan and Antonio make two people, and that they are the ones "owned" by their brother, I thought su would be the plural 3rd person i.e. "their" brother.

I thought the answer was false but it is actually true - the possessive adjective here in bold is masculine and singular.

I'm a bit confused.

Shouldn't the sentence be

Juan y Antonio viven con sus hermano?

What is the difference between

Juan y Antonio viven con su hermano. Juan y Antonio viven con sus hermano.

because I thought the second sentence was correct.

2 Answers 2


The difference is the number of the possesive. The first (su) is singular and the second (sus) is plural. They (Juan y Antonio) live with their brother (only one brother). For that reason you have to use the singular.


  • Juan y Antonio viven con su hermano (Juan and Antonio live with their brother). Hermano is singular.
  • Juan vive con sus hermanos (Juan lives with his brothers). Hermanos is plural.

Juan and Antonio have a brother. We can talk about their brother (su hermano). "Brother" is a singular entity, so whatever modifier we put in front of "brother" / hermano (in this case "their" / su) will also be singular.

The subject, Juan and Antonio (=they) is plural, hence the choice "their" in English (instead of "his"). However, in Spanish, the possessive pronoun is always going to be su, regardless of whether the subject is singular ("he" / él, ella) or plural ("they" / ellos, ellas).

Let's step away from the possessive pronouns for a moment and look at this in action with a garden variety adjective.

Some dogs have a short tail.

Algunos perros tienen una cola cortita.

The subject (perros) and its modifier (algunos) are plural. The object (cola) and its modifier (cortita) are singular.

(If I were your instructor, I wouldn't care whether you classified su in the exercise as "singular" correctly. I'd care that you wrote a sentence that fit the family relationship, and I'd care that you understand these sorts of sentences.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.