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From my textbook : "La serviette est à moi"

I was wondering if we can say "La serviette est à ma" instead.

I mean "ma" refers to to "la serviette" so what's wrong with that ?

Also, how is the sentence valid when "moi" means "me" so the sentence should mean

"The towel is me"?

closed as off-topic by Laure SO - Écoute-nous, Dimitris, Toto, ON5MF Jurgen, Un francophone Oct 29 at 12:46

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"Moi" is a pronoun and so it's like a noun, it can stand by itself. "Ma" is traditionally an adjective in French, but unlike the "adjectif qualificatif" that can stand on its own when used with certain verbs (être, paraitre, devenir, sembler, …), "ma" needs the support of a noun, that is, as it is probably more judiciously classified in English grammar, "ma" is a determiner; there are people in France nowadays that think so too. So, you always need a noun after "ma". You can say that "ma" refers to something or someone; instead, we say rather that it determines someone or something and here it determines someone, the person in possession of the towel.

Therefore you can't say "La seviette est ma.". If you want to formulate the idea of possession with a determiner instead of a pronoun, in French you say this.

  • C'est ma serviette.

There is another pronoun that can be used in another construction that says about the same thing, but it is not heard as often.

  • Cette serviette est la mienne.

Those pronouns are made up of two words, an article and a pronoun (le mien, la mienne, le tien, le sien, …) (réf.).

  • Note that you can also say "Cette serviette est mienne". – Pierre Oct 15 at 9:49
  • @Pierre You're right but in this case "mien/mienne" is used as an adjective I think. And this formulation si also very outdated... – Laurent S. Oct 15 at 9:52
  • @LaurentS. Properly speaking, this usage is not really outdated but rare and it's been so for a long time : this information is deduced from the ngram obtained with the research text "* est mienne" (the url doesn't fit into a single comment space). – LPH Oct 15 at 11:02
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If you want to avoid grammar jargon then

La serviette est à moi

means

The towel is mine.

C'est à moi (it belongs to me).

Look here for some typical examples: https://context.reverso.net/translation/french-english/il+est+%C3%A0+moi

la serviette est à ma

is just wrong.

Ma is a possessive adjective that cannot be used without preceding a noun. You could say for instance

C'est ma serviette. C'est mon sac. C'est mon héroïne. C'est mon amour,

and so on. You could also say (see @LPH answer)

Cette serviette est la mienne.

Moi does not mean here me but as set expression with à (that is, à moi) it translates mine. Try to learn in the beginning such expressions like c'est à moi as fixed ones and do not spend time to overanalyze them word by word.

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