structures in English
- use of of
I use "of"
or an "s"
Sadly there's no absolute rule to
tell you whether you need to use, or can use, a "possessive" form
on one with "'s".
that you can "only use 's with people" is a very
of exceptions. Besides, there are a lot of cases
where, even with
people, you cannot use 's.
So here are the main
"possession", and some examples to remember:
The first thing to determine is: is the "possessor" animate or inanimate?
cases of true possession: 's
The lady's car
attributes or actions: 's is common.
A2) The dog's leg was broken.
Madonna's reputation is
These can also be easily expressed using of.
A4) The dog's name was Jackson.
A5) The Queen's arrival was delayed.
The reputation of Madonna is international.
There is a difference
in emphasis between the two alternatives: examples A3-A5
emphasize the possessor,
A31 and A41 emphasize the quality
or attribute. In A5, the "possessor" is the
subject of the verbal noun following it.
A41) The name of the dog was Jackson.
in which there is no
however, even though both forms are theoretically possible, the structure
sentence will determine the choice of expression, as a word may have
to stand next to other words qualifying it: for example
reputation of Madonna,
the American singer,
We can NOT
Madonna's reputation, the American singer, is international. **
Examples A1 and A2 will be rephrased using "of" if this is
11) The car of the lady I had lunch with wouldn't start
Clearly, the other theoretical option gives the wrong meaning!
lady's car I had lunch with wouldn't start. **
There is no choice when possession is indicated by a possessive adjective, such
my, your, etc.
loss is my gain
A62 I took my brother to see our
took the brother of me to see the grandfather of us.
Relating a part to a whole (animates)
Use of "of" is obligatory
when expressing the relation of a
proportion to a whole
the rest of the
the majority of voters
A73 a quarter of the committee
and 's are
both possible (depending on sentence structure) when
expressing the relation of a
part to a unitary (single)
The man's arm
was broken, or
A81 The arm of the man
For qualities, attributes,
actions, or parts: Ofis
structure, but 's may
be possible; The
form can be used
familiar nouns for stress, or for reasons of sentence
of the operation
The condition of the goods
we received was not very
The launch of the new book was very successful.
The new book's launch was very successful.
lid of the
end of the
B6 The departure of the train was delayed for an hour.
The train's departure was delayed for an hour.
In examples B3 and B6, the
sentence could be rephrased using subject and verb instead of the
The new book was
launched very successfully (subj. + passive verb)
B62 the train
departed an hour later than planned (subj. + active verb)
Relating a part to a whole (inanimates) or a group to its constituents
The "of" form is normally obligatory when expressing the relation of a part to a whole
(or a whole to its parts)
when the part has no meaning unless it refers to a whole.
top of the stairs
the word top
is meaningless without reference to stairs)
the back of the building
B9 The middle of the report
The same is usually true when expressing the relation of a unit to a group
(or a group to its units)
when the group is defined by the units of which it is
A collection of paintings
B11 A group of trees
the stairs' top .
when the part is expressed as adjective+noun,
or when the part
is more important in the phrase than the whole (B 13, B131),
B101x A paintings'
The top floor of
B121 The building's top floor
B 13 The roof of the building was on fire
B 131 The building's roof was on fire
Complemental noun groups
is essential, except in a few specific cases.
of relativity. NOT
can often be rephrased as compounds,
C2) The Department of Linguistics. NOT
C21) the Linguistics Department
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