Put the words in brackets as appropriate.
(the possessor + 's + the thing possessed
The wolf's ears
The legs of the chair
(the thing possessed + of + the possessor
In general, we can say that we use the genitive case ('s
) when the possessor is a person or an animal. If not, we use the of-construction
(Mr Smith, canoe) is superb.
(the house, the windows) are of high quality.
I love (your son, trainers).
You can see (a cat, eyes) in the dark.
Someone has just pinched (my friend, ballpoint).
The boys' bikes
The children's bikes
The boy's bike
The boss's wife
If we have a plural form ending in -s
, we add only the apostrophe, as in the first example. In the second instance, children
is plural, but it does not end in -s
. In the third and fourth cases, boy
are singular, so we add 's
, as has been seen in the previous section.
(your sister, court shoes) are gorgeous!
(the schoolgirls, uniforms) are awful.
(the schoolchildren, running shoes) are terrible.
(the schoolboy, football boots) are inexpensive.
I don't like (your friends, behaviour).
the Blakes' mansion
Ms Woods's purse
Dickens's prose style
The examples above are proper names ending in -s
. They have the following characteristics:
The Blakes is a plural noun.
Ms Woods is an ordinary person.
Cervantes is a well-known foreign man, who died a long time ago.
Pythagoras is considered to be a classical man.
Dickens is famous and died a long time ago, but he is English.
Consequently, we can conclude by saying that only the apostrophe is used with classical names (Roman and Greek) and famous foreign names which refer to people who died a long time ago.
I have to study the (Archimedes principle) for tomorrow.
(Mrs Watkins, hubby) is currently overseas.
I love (Dickens, novels).
(James, girl-friend) is very intelligent.
That is (Mr Miles, missus).
4 Revision exercise.
(Mary, pimples) depress her.
(Celia, eyes) sparkled with joy.
(my hat, the brim) is dirty.
(the video, the romote control) is broken.
(Denis, watch) is water-resitant.
These are (Mr Evans, pliers).
This photo was taken in (my half-brother, heyday). He became very popular in the "70s.
(this house, the walls) are very old.
(this book, the cover) is really exquisite.
(the trunk, the lid) dates back to the 17th century.
He finds (Euripides, plays) quite boring.
(John, half-sister)is as meek as a lamb.
(cigarettes, this packet) is American.
We need five (these flowers, stems).
Don't soak (the dress, the lining).
(her pupils, homework) was excellent.
(his dog, tail) was badly hurt in the accident.
He will sabotage (your warriors, weapons).
(Miss Curtis, lipstick) was stolen from her clutch bag last night.
(the Browns, house) was built in the 18th century.
You've scorched (Billy, clothes)!
I would like to read a little of (Sophocles, poetry).
(bread, these slices) are too thin.
(my chair, the back) is very uncomfortable.
(his house, the walls) are paper thin.
(my sister, goddaughter) is so predictable!
Eve and Margaret's bikinis
Mr and Mrs Roberts's yacht
My sister-in-law's property
If the possessor has more than one word, we place the genitive at the end.
(Fiona and Elmer, ostentatious flat) is beyond their possibilities. I don't know how they will cope with the payments.
(Mr and Mrs Jarvis, carrots) are from their garden.
(the boys and the girls, rooms) are downstairs.
(my brother and my sister, sense of humour) is fascinating.
These are (Mr and Mrs White, hammocks).
She's at the doctor's (surgery).
Peter's (pheasant) looks great.
I'm going to the baker's (shop).
As seen in the examples above, the thing possessed can be dropped
if it is implicit in our general knowledge.
We need to buy some meat. Let's go to (the butcher).
If you want a bunch of flowers, go to (the florist).
I need a pair of glasses, so I'm going to (the optician) this afternoon.
My daughter is coming for dinner this evening, so I'm going to (the fishmonger) to buy some fish.
My toothache is very painful. I think I'll have to go to (the dentist).
Tomorrow's match has been postponed.
The genitive also occurs with time words or phrases.
(yesterday, competition) was put off because of the weather.
(last night, performance) was a complete failure.
(next week, party) will be indoors, as it's getting cooler.
(last year, carnival) was a roaring success.
(tonight, date) is especial. I think it's been love at first sight.
This is New York's tallest building/This is the tallest building in New York.
This town's first cinema was built in 1937/The first cinema in this town was built in 1937.
The genitive is also possible with places, mostly with countries, superlative adjectives and ordinal numbers.
Is (Britain, bus service) efficient?
She broke (the world, record
) last year.
I would like to see (Italy, most ancient monument).
This is (the city, first theatre).
This is (the country, most recent discovery).
9 Revision exercise.
(my brother-in-law, toupee) is ridiculous.
(the day before yesterday, reception) was off.
I was put off by (Nicholas, manners).
(the palace, the furniture) dates from the 17th century.
She loves (Catalonia, way of life).
She wants to open (a carpenter, workshop).
(my dog and cat, food) costs very little.
Were (Jesus, miracles) true?
"What's (Charles, occupation)?"
"I'm not sure, but I think he's an opera composer."
(my pals, bikes) are better than mine.
These are (my housekeeper, keys).
(her partner, words) came straight from his heart.
We shall have to erase that bad experience from (our daughter, memory).
(Tess, stepchildren) are a picture of health.
They always won their matches thanks to (their manager, secret weapons).
This rucksack isn't yours. It's (Eve).
If my memory serves me correctly, it's (Elmer, birthday).
(my uncle vineyards) are the best spot to be on (one, own).
(the settee, the legs) were made by me.
(the rocking chair, the wood) comes from Brazil.
(the day after tomorrow, dancing contest) will take place in the afternoon.
(my hometown, second museum) was built on this side of the river.
(Liz, alibi) isn't convincing.
They like (Aristophanes humorous plays).
He says that he touched (the mermaid, tail) in his dream.
(that guy, pekinese) is stone-blind.
The firm's new project is very revolutionary/The new project of the firm is very revolutionary.
As a general rule, both the genitive and the of-construction
are possible with nouns referring to groups of people.
(the government, intervention) didn't make much difference to what was expected.
(the company, profits) are getting better at present.
I don't agree with (the committee, policy).
(the team, players) should consider our pieces of advice.
(the party, members) are having a meeting now.
This is the car of the girl who bought a pair of ballet shoes yesterday evening.
The moustache of the man who has a scar on his face is very uncommon nowadays/The moustache of the man with a scar on his face is very uncommon nowadays.
The possessive case is not possible if the possessor is followed by that, who
It's (the day [that]
we met, a picture).
This is (the man [that] she promised to be always true to, the briefcase).
Look at (the ostrich [which] you are feeding, the eyes).
(the boy [that] Mary loves, the face) is very photogenic.
(the person [who is] in love with him, the ring) is a snip.
They love Jane Austen's novels/They love the novels of Jane Austen.
My neighbour's murder/The murder of my neighbour was silenced by the police.
The sentences above do not indicate possession. In cases of this sort, both alternatives are generally possible.
(my ex-husband, sudden death) was a trauma to my children.
I detest (James Joyce, prose). He was the most pedantic person on earth.
(Shakespeare, lines) were a landmark in the theatre of the time.
(the prime minister, election) will be difficult.
(the vixen, running up and down) tired her out.
It's only a mile's walk.
It's only a stone's throw (away) from here.
For heaven's sake!
For goodness' sake!
It's only ten pounds' worth.
It happened at the water's edge.
The genitive is common as well in a few expressions, such as the ones seen above.
(the sun, rays) are necessary for life.
For (God, sake), what have you done!
She told me that she had betrayed me at (death, door).
They bought (twenty dollars, worth of aubergines).
When she became famous, she achieved (her life, ambition).
14 Revision exercise.
He likes (Marilyn Monroe, sex appeal).
For (our children, sake), please don't do it.
(the president, speech) did not convince anybody.
(my sister, wedding) didn't last long.
This book deals with (Portugal, culture).
He considers (Socrates, thoughts) very interesting.
(Mrs Brooks, shopping list) is too long.
Is Mexico (the world, largest city)?
Now we are going to talk about (a tadpole, gills).
(Peter, rancour) won't do him any good.
(Bess, eggs) are always fresh.
If you ask me, (John Lennon, songs) are the best.
(these brogues, the sole) is very good.
(the crocodile, mouth) is immense.
(his ex-wife, wristband) was made in Beijing.
(yesterday, showers) were beneficial to the land.
I spent the night looking at (the room, the ceiling).
I don't know (this word, the meaning).
He ruined (his ex, career path).
Someone nicked (our neighbours, hose) last night.
This is (the people [who live] next door, the pet).
I didn't approve of (the multinational, security measures).
(the kids, survival) was due to the fact that they found a stream.
(the company, enterprising attitude) will set a precedent in this sector.
(this coffin, the material) will never perish.
I'd like to buy some (traveller, cheques).
It is also called the possessive case or the Saxon genitive.
Compare the following sentences:
This is a photograph of Gloria's.
This is a photograph of Gloria.
He's Nadia's brother.
He's a brother of Nadia's.
The first instance implies that the photograph belongs to Gloria; the second, that Gloria is in the photograph. In the third case, we suggest that Nadia has probably only one brother; but in the fourth, that she has more than one.
This construction is often called the of-genitive
Sometimes, it is possible to use the possessor as an adjective: the chair legs
. Compare the following, though:
A truck of vegetables
(= A truck loaded with vegetables.)
A vegetable truck
(= A truck used to carry vegetables.)
See unit 23, section 15, footnote 34
Note the pronunciation: /wudziz/
Sometimes, we not only omit the thing possessed, but leave out the apostrophe as well: Barclays (Bank)/Barclay's (Bank) is very well-known world-wide.
We may also say I'm going to the baker
, but this is less usual and better to be avoided. If we say I'm going to the doctor
, we mean that we are going to see the doctor; but if we say I'm going to the doctor's
, we imply that we are going to his/her surgery.
In this particular case, the apostrophe and the s
are usually dropped:
She holds the world record in the javeling.
The world's largest river/The largest river in the world is the Amazon.
The world's longest river/The longest river in the world is the Nile.
Notice that that
can be left out here.