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Genitive Noun Forms (Possessive)

Indicate a relationship between two nouns

 

 

► What is a genitive noun? ▼ Explanation of term

A genitive noun:

  • expresses possession (Jack's age, Jack's dog), family relationship (Jack's dad), substance (a cup of sugar), source (fish of the sea), origin (people of Greece), reference (the department of the...), description (man of integrity), and other relationships.
  • modifies another noun (the leg of the chair / the dog's tail) and may
  • functions as (1) a determiner (Jack's dog, his dog, the dog), (2) the subject of a gerund clause (We asked about Jack's winning the lottery.), (3) fused subject-determiner (Jack's age is the same as Kate's__), (4) oblique genitive (Kate is a cousin of Jack's), (5) predicative complement (This is Jack's), (6) descriptive (That is a catcher's glove.)
  • is formed with a prepositional phrase using of (the end of the road) or 's (Land's End).  A  singular genitive noun is marked by an apostrophe and an s (Jack's).  A  plural genitive noun is marked by a final apostrophe (Jameses').  Style manuals vary in their marking of genitive for singular nouns that end in s (boss', boss's).

 

Genitive (Possessive)

For Common Nouns

The class' soccer team
 

 

Genitive Forms for Common Nouns

SINGULAR

apostrophe SAfter a singular personal noun, add an apostrophe + s.    See notes below regarding final s.

SINGULAR COMMON NOUN

Our school's soccer team won several games. 

The state's soccer team won several games.

The country's soccer team won several games.   

SINGULAR COMMON NOUNS FOLLOWED BY -S

The class's soccer team (MLA 3.2.7e)  (CMOS 7.18)

The class's team not followed by a word starting with s (AP 323)

BUT:  The class' soccer team  followed by a word starting with s (AP 323) 

OTHER

A day's journey / a twenty minutes's delay.

Today's news / tomorrow's weather / Sunday's newspaper days and time

A pound's worth of peanuts / a dollar's worth of gas  a quantify worth

My daughter-in-law's profession in-law expressions (CMOS 7.25)

1968's music was great.  a specific year 
   

EXCEPT:  NOUNS PLURAL IN FORM BUT SINGULAR IN MEANING

Economics' contribution / Mathematics' rules

Linguistics' explanation

The series'  first game

for righteousness'/Jesus'/ goodness' sake

PLURAL

 S apostropheAfter a plural personal noun, add an apostrophe after the s.

SINGULAR COMMON PLURAL NOUN

The schools' soccer teams won several games.

The states' soccer teams won several games.

The countries' soccer teams won several games.   

PLURAL COMMON NOUNS FOLLOWED BY -S

The classes' soccer teams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCEPT: NOUNS SINGULAR IN FORM BUT PLURAL IN MEANING

The children's / men's / women's soccer team

The people's vote

The sheep's / deer's / moose's / oxen's / fish's eyes…

The alumni's contributions

 

Style Manual Abbreviations: AP (Associated Press), APA (American Psychological Association), CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), GREGG (Gregg Reference Manual); MLA (MLA Handbook)

Also see Apostrophes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genitive (Possessive)

For Proper Nouns

 

 

 

Genitive Forms for Proper Nouns

SINGULAR

apostrophe SAfter singular proper noun add an apostrophe + s (even if the proper noun ends in -s)

Jason's ball went over the fence. 

Charles's ball went over the fence. (MLA 3.2.7e)  (CMOS 7.18)

Charles' ball went over the fence.  (AP 323)

James's hat blew away. (MLA 3.2.7e)  (CMOS 7.18)

James' hat blew away.  (AP 323) 

OTHER

Coach Burns's soccer team won several games.  two-word nouns)

Andy and Manuel's team is staying late for practice. double nouns

FDR's policies / JFK's assassination initials

Yahoo!'s chief executive officer  keyboard symbols

PLURAL

 S apostropheAfter most proper nouns, first create the plural, then add an apostrophe.  (Note that the plural form for words ending in -s, -z or -x adds -es.)

The Wagners' house  (sing. – Wagner; pl. Wagners)

The Burnses' field (sing. – Burns; pl. Burnses)

The Martinezes' yard  (sing. – Martinez; pl. Martinezes)

The Marxes' daughter

The Hawaiian Islands' soccer teams

EXCEPT: SINGULAR: ORGANIZATIONS, GROUPS, UNIONS

The United States' soccer team     (CMOS 7.19)

The Boy Scouts' soccer team

The National Academy of Sciences' new building

The Red Fox Hills' neighborhood soccer team

 

A proper noun is a name for a person, organization, group or country.
For more detail, see Apostrophes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genitives

Dependent vs. Independent

trophy

 

 

Modifier vs. Head Noun

DEPENDENT — MODIFIER TO NOUN

A noun phrase may include a genitive (possessive) noun as a modifier to the head (main) noun in the noun phrase.  The genitive is a dependent of the noun phrase.                                                                                               

GENITIVE AS SUBJECT NOUN MODIFIER

Megan's team won the trophy.  

Her team won the trophy.   [possessive pronoun)]

GENITIVE AS MODIFIER TO NOUN

The goalie is Megan's teammate.

 

GENITIVE AS SUBJECT OF CLAUSE

Our team played as well as Megan's team played. 

 

GENITIVE AS SUBJECT OF GERUND CLAUSE

 

MODIFIER TO THE PREDICATE COMPLEMENT NOUN

The trophy is Megan's trophy.

 

INDEPENDENT —  HEAD OF NOUN PHRASE

Or the noun phrase can be shortened to just the genitive (possessive) noun when the relationship of the item has already been mentioned (is understood from context.) The genitive is independent; it is the head noun of the noun phrase.

GENITIVE IS SUBJECT

Megan's won the trophy.   [subject-determiner]  

Hers won several games.   

GENITIVE AS OJBECT OF PREP

The goalie is a teammate of Megan's. [oblique genitive]

GENITIVE AS FUSED DETERMINER-SUBJECT

Our team played as well as Megan's.  [fused subj-determiner-head]

GENITIVE AS SUBJECT OF GERUND CLAUSE

We talked about Megan's winning the trophy [subj of gerund-participle]

PREDICATE COMPLEMENT

The trophy is Megan's. [predicative genitive]

 

 

*not used / ~ usage requires special situation or context

fused (Adj) – blended, joined together as one

head noun – The term "head" specifies the primary word in the phrase. It is called a head because of (1) its primary position (beginning) in the phrase; or (2) its primary role (meaning) in the phrase.

trophy (N) – an award given to the winners, usually in sports competitions

Also see Possessive Pronouns and Pop-Q "Daughters"

(Huddleston "fused subject-determiner"

 

 

 

 

 

Genitive Noun Forms

Inanimate (things)

Broken goal post
 

 

Genitive Forms for Things

APOSTROPHE + S

Using the apostrophe + s  form for "things" is informal.  The genitive form, with an apostrophe, is mostly (but not always) reserved for people and animals.

~The goalposts leg was broken.

~I dropped my keys at the bed's foot

~My brother's best-friend's soccer team won. (confusing)

*The wet, slippery field's grass prevented us from playing. 

THE X OF __ 

Using of for "things" is more acceptable in academic and business English.  Of is also used to clarify meaning.  This of construction is called "an oblique genitive".

The leg of the goal post was broken.

I dropped my keys at the foot of the bed.   (maintain an expression)

The soccer team of my brother's best-friend won. (simplify a series of genitives)

The wet, slippery grass of the field prevented us from playing. (improve modifier placement)  

 

* not used / ~ awkward usage, not preferred usage

Also see Apostrophes  the X of  and  / The-Countries  / The-Landmarks

(Huddleston 5 §16.5.3 [62]) "oblique genitive"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genitive Nouns

Determiners — This / These

 

 

 

Possessive Determiners—Singular and Plural

SINGULAR POSSESSIVE

A singular determiner is used with a singular genitive noun. The determiner and the genitive combine to form a "genitive phrase" that modifies the second noun.

SINGULAR POSSESSIVE + SINGULAR NOUN

        modifies network      modifies network
This computer's network   is down. /   Its network is down.

My computer's network is down. / My network is down.

1 computer — 1 network   

SINGULAR POSSESSIVE + PLURAL NOUN

        modifies network          modifies network
This computer's networks are down.  / Its networks are down.

My computer's networks are down. / My networks are down.

1 computer — several networks

PLURAL POSSESSIVE

A plural determiner is used with a plural genitive noun.  The determiner and the genitive combine to form a "genitive phrase" that modifies the second noun.

PLURAL POSSESSIVE + SINGULAR NOUN

            modifies network      modifies network
These computers'
network is down. / Their network is down.

My computers' network is down.  / My network is down.

several computers — 1 network

PLURAL POSSESSIVE + PLURAL NOUN

        modifies network          modifies network
These computers' networks are down (off). / Their networks are down.

My computers' networks are down.  / My networks are down.

several computers — several networks..

 

network is down — a system failure; off, not working

 

 

 

 

 

Genitives

Days and Holidays

champagne
 

 

Genitives for Days & Holidays

SINGULAR

The apostrophe is placed before the S in singular-noun holidays.

Today's date is December 31.

This year's movies were excellent.

We are going out on New Year's Eve.

More chocolate is sold on Valentine's Day than any other day.

I'll send a card to my mother on Mother's Day.

The kids make breakfast for their father on Father's Day.

Everyone wears green on Saint Patrick's Day.
 

PLURAL

The apostrophe is placed after S in plural-noun holidays.  

I was paid well for thirty days' work.

The last few years' best movies have all used CGI.  (computer generated images)

We play jokes on people on April Fools' Day.

All Saints' Day  is celebrated on November 1.

* Veterans Day is the day we honor those who have fought in past wars.

* Presidents Day is the day we remember the birthdays of former presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

 *Neither Veterans Day nor Presidents Day occurs with an apostrophe.

 

Mother's Day and Father's Day are creations of Anne Jarvis who chose to make the noun form singular so that each mother or father would be specially honored. 
CGI (N) - an acronym meaning computer generated images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grammar Notes

Style and Grammar Descriptions

 

 

Style Manual Comments on Final -S Genitives

FINAL APOSTROPHE —BOSS'  CHARLES' 

Traditional rules form the genitive for nouns ending in with a final apostrophe (boss → boss' and Charles → Charles').

This approach can be found in the AP Stylebook, which specifies the following guidelines:

Singular common nouns ending in s: add 's unless the next word begins with s: the hostess's invitation, the hostess' seat; the witness's answer; the witness' story.

Singular proper nouns ending in s add an apostrophe: Williams' plays, Dickens' novels, Hercules' labors, Jesus' life (but not St. James's Palace).

Plural in form but singular in meaning: mathematics' rules, measles' effect

Singular and plural form is the same: the Marine Corps' trucks, two deer's tails.

 

Plural nouns ending in s add only an apostrophe: the girls' toys, the horses' tail, the states' rights, the boss' office, General Motors' profits, United States' policy.

(AP 192)

 

Word Origin and History for 's  <weblink>

 

APOSTROPHE + S—BOSS'S  CHARLES'S

Newer rules simplify the formation of genitives:

(1) final 's  is added to all singular nouns, even those ending in s (toy → toys, boss → boss's, and Charles → Charles's);

(2) final ' (apostrophe) is added after all plural nouns (bosses'  Charleses').

A singular noun, common and proper, ending in s forms the genitive by adding 's: house/house's, boss/boss's, Davis/Davis's, Charles/Charles's. This adds an additional syllable to the original word: /ɪs/ or /ɪz/, depending upon the previous consonant. Exceptions to this rule are ancient names: Jesus', Moses', Socrates', Euripides'.

Plural nouns ending in s form the genitive by adding an apostrophe: parents' love, friends' support, the Williamses' house  Joneses' car. Exceptions to the rule are plural nouns with irregular forms: children's toys, women's fashions.

MLA (3.2.7); APA (4.12); CMOS (7.18-26) 

The Gregg Reference Manual adds:

When a singular word ends in a silent s, add 'sIllinois's Capitol, Degas's painting, Des Moines's freeways.

When a singular word ends in a s and a new syllable is formed in the pronunciation of the genitive, add 's: Congress's bill, Dallas's center, St. Louis's airport.

When a singular word ends in s and the addition of an extra syllable would make a word hard to pronounce, add the apostrophe only.   Peter Jennings' newscast, Jesus' stories.

(GREGG 630)

 

Style Manual Abbreviations (used in this website) AP (Associated Press), APA (American Psychological Association), CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), GREGG (Gregg Reference Manual), MLA (MLA Handbook)

 

 

Linguistic Description

GENITIVE CONSTRUCTIONS

Huddleston distinguishes six genitive constructions.  (5 §16.3)

  1. Megan's team won the trophy. [subject-determiner]   (5 §4)
  2. We talked about Megan's winning the trophy.  [subj of gerund-participle]
  3. Our team played as well as Megan's.  [fused subj-determiner-head]
  4. He is a teammate of Megan's. [oblique genitive]
  5. The trophy is Megan's. [predicative genitive]
  6. Our team won the Mayor's trophy.   [attributive]

  

The first five are noun phrases (NPs). The third is a "fused genitive" as described below:

"Fused-head NPs are those where the head is combined with a dependent function that in ordinary NPs is adjacent to the head, usually determiner or internal modifier." (Huddleston 5 §9.1)

 

Huddleston Genitive
GENITIVE PHRASE

Payne posits Genitive Phrase (GP) as a distinct category.

"Although this enclitic [ 's] ] can in no wise be considered a word separate from the host to which it attaches, it does have a very important function at the phrase level; it is not just a suffix that relates to a noun, but rather an element that affects the whole phrase it attaches to." (Payne 8.3)

1) A  genitive phrase (GP) may function as a determiner. 

Megan's trophy  [possessive]

BUT a genitive is not a determiner because the two can occur together. [Words from the same category are not used together or do not appear one after the other.)] 

The school's team won the trophy.  [Det + ? + N]

2) Neither a determinative phrase (DP) nor a noun phrase (NP) can function as a determiner. The following are DPs.

*Megan team  won the trophy. / ~The girl team won the trophy.   

*Three girls team won the trophy. /*Older girl team won the trophy.

"Since genitive phrases, or GPs, can function as Determiners, and DPs and NPs cannot, then GP must be a different phrasal category from DP or NP.  Furthermore, the presence of the genitive enclitic 's determines the syntactic properties of this phrasal category therefore it is reasonable to propose that the enclitic is the syntactic Head of the GP."  (8.3)

(The following diagram is how the author of this website interprets the above description.)

Payne's Genitive Phrase

 

 

Resources

  • 's. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/'s (accessed: August 09, 2015).
  • Gibaldi, Joseph, ed. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2009. Print.
  • Goldstein, Norm, ed. The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. New York: Basic, 2007. Print. 
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2002. Print.
  • Payne, Thomas Edward. Understanding English Grammar: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2011. Print.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 6th ed. Washington, DC:  American Psychological Association, 2010. Print.
  • Sabin, William A., The Gregg Reference Manual:A manual of Style, Grammar, Usage, and Formatting. 11th ed. New York: McGraw–Hill, 2011. Print.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.
  • The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2013. Web. 2 Jan 2014.
 

 

 

 

 

Practice

Possessives 

family
 

 

Identify the correct genitive form.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

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