This post is all about the different usage and formations of the Possessive Case as I told in my previous post “What is Case in English Grammar and How to Use It” that I’ll be coming soon with an in-depth discussion on the topic.
In today’s world the need for reading, writing and speaking in English is a worldwide need but English learners are often seen struggling hard with grammatical terms such as the “Case” used in the English Language. You may find my previous post on the same topic quite helpful. I would recommend you to have a glance at that one before going through this post on the usage variations and different formations of the Possessive Case.
I would like to cite the Definition of the Case for your convenience.
Definition: The relation of a noun or a pronoun with other words in a sentence is known to be the Case.
The Case, in other words, reflects the grammatical function of a noun or pronoun in a sentence.
For Example: “He laughed at the man”
Here “He” is the subject. It is the answer to the question “Who laughed at the man?”. The group of words “laughed at the man” is the Predicate. “the man” is the answer to the question “Who did he laugh at?”. The noun “man” is, therefore, the object.
Now let’s come to the topic at hand.
What is the Possessive Case?
When the use of a noun or a pronoun indicates an ownership, possession or relation of some other kind, it is said to be in the Possessive Case. Generally, the Possessive Case is identified by looking for the answer to the question “Whose?”
This is Mr. Bin’s property.
Here Mr. Bin is changed to “Mr. Bin’s” to indicate ownership or possession. “Mr. Bin’s” is the answer to the question “Whose property is this?” The property belongs to Mr. Bin. Mr. Bin is, therefore, is said to be in the Possessive Case.
Relationships other than just possession are often expressed by the Possessive Case which is misleading. Actually, the term “Possessive” for “Genitive” is often misled and has clearly been discussed in my previous post on The Case. You may have a look at it.
Formation of the Possessive Case
In the case of singular nouns an apostrophe and an “s” (‘s) is added to form the Possessive Case;
Such as, “The king’s order”, “Emma’s book” etc.
However, a few nouns ending with hissing sounds drop the letter “s” in the end to indicate the Possessive Case;
Such as, “Moses’ laws”, “For goodness’ sake” etc.
In the case of plural nouns ending with “s” just an apostrophe (‘) is added to form the Possessive Case;
Such as, “boys’ school”, “birds’ nests” etc.
But plural nouns not ending with “s” take an apostrophe and “s” (‘s) to form the Possessive Case;
Such as, “children’s playground”, “men’s clothes” etc.
Compound nouns or names consisting of several words and nouns in apposition do form their Possessive Cases by adding an apostrophe and an “s” (‘s) to the last word.
Such as, “The king of Nepal’s speech”, “This is Tagore, the poet’s birthplace” etc.
Similarly when two or more nouns are closely connected by “and” the Possessive apostrophe and “s” (‘s) is added to the latter or the last one to indicate shared possession.
Such as, “Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads”, “Sady and Tom’s shop” etc.
But the Possessive apostrophe and “s” (‘s) is added to each of the nouns to indicate separate possession.
Such as, “Tagore’s and Nazrul’s poems”, “Sady’s and Tom’s shops” etc.
How to Use Possessive Case
The remarkable part and thing to remember is that the nouns or names of non-living objects are not used in the Possessive Case these days
“The back of the chair”, “The front page of the newspaper”. etc.
“A bird’s eye”, “A cow’s belly”. etc.
Exceptions are there:
(i) The Possessive Case is used when inanimate objects are personified.
Such as, “India’s heroes”, “Fortune’s favour”. etc.
(ii) When nouns denote time, space or weight
Such as, “A week’s leave”, “A foot’s length”, “A pound’s weight”. etc.
(iii) Some of the following phrases are used with the Possessive Case
Such as, “Heart’s content”, “Wit’s end”. etc.
*** There is another type of the Possessive Case named the Elliptical or Absolute Possessive
The Possessive Case of nouns indicating a house, trade or profession is often used without using nouns like house, shop after them.
Such as, “Let’s go to the baker’s” (baker’s shop), “She went to my uncle’s” (uncle’s house). etc.
But these words cannot be omitted after the Possessive Case of pronouns unless the words denoting shop etc. (here “bag”) are previously mentioned.
Such as, “This is his bag; where is yours?”. etc.
*** Double Possessive
This form is used to express one out of many. In this form, both (‘s) and “of” are used
Such as, “News of Jenny” means news about Jenny but “The news of Jenny’s” refers to one of many news that Jenny brings,
Similarly, “A toy of Jenny’s” refers to only one of many toys Jenny has. etc.
However, the skill in using the Possessive Case properly is subject to the regular practicing of the rules mentioned above. But keep in mind that rules are made to make a language easy to express our thoughts and not to make it difficult.
Have a good time, Bye
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