Introducing Possession in English Grammar


There are several ways to show ownership or possession in English grammar.

The way we use mainly depends on whether the owner is animate (i.e. a person or an animal) or a thing. But as always, there are exceptions to this general rule.

Animate Owners

Apostrophe

To show possession we can add an apostrophe -s (sometimes called a Saxon genitive) to the owner.

This is Amelia. Amelia owns the dog. This is Amelia‘s dog.

See the main article, Possessive Apostrophes‏‎.

Possessive Adjectives

Because Amelia is female we can use a feminine personal pronoun‎ instead of her name and the apostrophe -s. This is the female possessive adjective (we call it an adjective because it describes the noun):

This is Amelia’s dog. This is her dog.

He rode his bike to work.

She lost her keys.

See the main article, Possessive Adjectives‏‎.

Possessive Pronouns

We can also use a possessive pronoun which refers to the whole noun phrase‏‎:

This is her bike. This is hers.

Who does this car belong to? It’s his.

See the main article, Possessive Pronouns‏‎.

Inanimate Owners

With inanimate objects, we don’t normally use an apostrophe -s to show possession. For example we wouldn’t normally say

? The door’s handle.

Note the question mark at the beginning of this statement; this denotes that it is of questionable grammar and may not be correct English.

We use the preposition of to show ownership instead:

The handle of the door.

Compare this to people which don’t normally use of to show ownership.

* The dog of Amelia.

* The car of Dave.

Note the asterisk which denotes the sentence does not have correct English grammar.

Exceptions

As often happens with English, there are exceptions to this general rule of animate/inanimate possession. For example, sometimes we can have two types of possessive phrase which mean pretty much the same thing:

the people’s decision

the decision of the people

Adverbs of Time

Although time is inanimate, we don’t use of to show possession but instead use an apostrophe -s.

Yesterday’s news.

It was ten minutes’ drive.

Subordinate Clauses

As we said above, people normal take an apostrophe:

The girl’s dog.

But suppose we have a subordinate clause‏‎ which describes the girl:

The girl in the green dress’ dog.

The is grammatically correct if a little clumsy. But what about this:

The girl’s dog.

The girl with her friend’s dog.

Who owns the dog? Is it the girl or her friend? This can be clarified by using of instead:

The dog of the girl with her friend.


Did you know that if you subscribe to our website, you will receive email notifications whenever content changes or new content is added.
1. Enter your e-mail address below and click the Sign Me Up button.
2. You will receive an email asking you to confirm your intention of subscribing to our site.
3. Click the link in the email to confirm. That’s all there is to it! [jetpack_subscription_form title="" subscribe_text="Enter your email address below to subscribe to IWeb TEFL." subscribe_button="Sign Me Up"] Note: if you wish to unsubscribe from our site, click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email you received.
Then indicate you no longer wish to receive our emails.

Thank You
IWeb TEFL Team


Posted in Sentence Structure.

Leave a Reply