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QW 040212 “Relational Possessives”

The latest Grammar Girl piece is an interesting read on possessives. This website is a good resource for you to relearn problematic grammar features in English. Almost all pieces come with texts and audio. And it’s FREE. What can we expect more?

Have you ever thought about the possessive “s” in a phrase like “two weeks’ notice”? “Two weeks’ notice” refers to the notification to your employer that you’ll be quitting your job in two weeks, by the way. The issue about “two weeks’ notice” is that why inanimate (not alive, lifeless) nouns, such as “two weeks” can take possessive nouns. Another example for this is “a year’s pay” introduced in the article. Grammar Girl explained that possessives do not always demonstrate the ownership of the noun. Quote;

Even with animate nouns, possessive case doesn’t always mean possession. For example, suppose I were to tell you, “Aardvark called his mother on her birthday.” Although “his” and “her” are possessive pronouns, I’m certainly not claiming that Aardvark owns his mother... Furthermore, I don’t mean that Aardvark’s mother claims ownership over the anniversary of the date of her birth. Several hundred other aardvarks have that same birthday.

True. His or Her in the sentence are used to show the relationship between Aardvark and the mother, and the mother and the birthday. Here’s why from Grammar Girl: “Possessives like these, which don’t indicate actual ownership, are sometimes called relational possessives.” Oh, “relational possessives.”! Then let’s go back to “Two weeks’ notice”. The notion of relational possessives explains that the possessive apostrophe-s shows the relationship between two weeks and notice, just like “notice of two weeks (in advance)”. Now you can be confident in using “today’s news, last night’s dinner, or thirty years’ service”, which you can explain the relations with the inversion of the nouns and the addition of “of”, as in “(the) service of thirty years”. Got it?

(40 minutes / 317 words)

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Aya

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