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 or Thomas’s car (both are correct)
- 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’ ❌
- I like Betty’s hair
- Jason’s father
- This is Karen’s jacket.
- Three hours’ delay
- Friday’s party.