What is the difference between the possessive adjective

suus (his, hers, its, theirs)
(and its declensions)

and the genitive, possessive pronoun

eius (of her, of him, of it)?

Can these words be used interchangeably?

  • What's your evidence, other than the subjective seems? – andy256 Jul 25 '16 at 7:21
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    @andy256 I believe it is just his personal experience, and the main question is really "What is the difference between suus and eius?" So, I don't think evidence is necessary. – Sam K Jul 25 '16 at 14:22
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    There was a suggested edit to replace "possessive pronoun" with "personal pronoun", but I rejected it to let you keep your original voice in the question. The word eius is not a standalone pronoun, but the genitive (and therefore possessive) form of the pronoun is, ea, id. Especially when it comes to pronouns, translations to English or any other language can be misleading. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 25 '16 at 14:33
  • @JoonasIlmavirta What I meant is that in the genitive case it acts like a possessive pronoun. – Geremia Jul 26 '16 at 2:28

All forms of se, including suus, normally refer to the subject of the main clause of the sentence. Eius, however, normally does not refer to this subject, but to someone else. So the two words have different meanings.

Sextus Tarquinius crudelis est. Lucretia praevidet mortem suam.

"S.T. is cruel. Lucretia foresees her own death."

Sextus Tarquinius crudelis est. Lucretia praevidet mortem eius.

"S.T. is cruel. Lucretia foresees his death."

The words suam and eius must be interpreted this way in the examples above; suam cannot refer to Tarquinius, nor can eius refer to Lucretia.

  • Without the "Sextus Tarquinius crudelis est." context, could "Lucretia prævidet mortem suam." have the same meaning as "Lucretia prævidet mortem eius."? – Geremia Jul 25 '16 at 18:38
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    @Geremia: I would say no: if it referred to Lucretia, the writer would have written suam. So not writing suam means the writer is denying that conexion. – Cerberus Jul 25 '16 at 22:38

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