How to use the genitive in English? Complete lesson with examples

How to use the genitive in English?


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The genitive in English (‘s and of)

In English, the genitive (or possessive case) makes it possible to indicate possession, origin, that there is a relationship between two things, a family relationship, or that one thing belongs to another:

The genitive can be indicated by:

  • the addition of the apostrophe S after the name:       Paul‘s car
  • the addition of OF before the name:                           a pack of cigarettes 

How to use it:

The addition of the apostrophe depends on whether the name is singular, plural or ends with an S:

  • Singular name → the boy‘s room
  • Plural name → the boys’ room
  • Singular name ending in -s → Thomas’ car ou Thomas’s car  (les deux sont corrects)
  • Irregular plural → children‘s books

In a sentence with several names, add one or ‘s only to the last name:

  • I’m going on a two weeks trip to Vietnam.
  • Sam and Lucy‘s friend. 

If each name has something, you have to put or ‘s to both names:

  • Scott and Simon‘s factory 
  • Scott‘s and Simon‘s factories 

Sometimes the name after ‘s is not necessary, if the context is familiar or clearly implied (or to avoid repetitions!):

  • My car is older than Patrick’s. (= Patrick’s car)
  • We ate at Sam’s last night. (= Sam’s restaurant or Sam’s house) 
  • She’s at her mother’s (= her mother’s place) 
  • Whose phone is this? It’s Kevin’s. (= Kevin’s phone) 
  • Is it your turn? No, it’s Linda’s (= Linda’s turn) 

Be careful of the position of the adjective:

  • The beautiful girl’s hair 
  • The girl’s beautiful hair 

You don’t need ‘s to be with things:

  • a door handle 
  • the tool box 
  • a tennis shoe 
  • a kitchen table

We use the possessive ‘s with words like one, anyone, someone, someone, anybody, somebody:

  • I’ve just found someone’s phone on the table.

When we use else with these words, the ‘s is added to else:

  • Everyone else’s opinion is not important to me. 

⚠  We don’t use ‘s with possessive pronouns:

  • Is that book yours?  ✅
  • Is that book your’s?  ❌
  • That car is theirs.  ✅
  • That car is theirs’  ❌

Some examples

  • I like Betty’s hair 
  • Jason’s father 
  • This is Karen’s jacket. 
  • Three hours’ delay 
  • Friday’s party. 

 

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