Meaning[edit | edit source]
In English, this is used to indicate possession, in the grammatical sense.
We use the genitive to talk about possession, relationship, physical features, etc. We use it to talk about a noun which “belongs” to a person, a country, organisation, etc.: John’s hair; Anne’s flat; the company’s marketing strategy; Spain’s unemployment figures
- we also use it to talk about something which is used by a person or animal: There are two birds’ nests in that tree; a child’s bicycle;
- It can also be used for products from living animals: cow’s milk; lamb’s wool;
- It is often used to say how long things last: three hours’ journey; twenty minutes’ delay;
- It can indicate the origin of something in a proper name: Murphy’s law;
Form[edit | edit source]
The English possessive pronouns are in the genitive case; there are two types of these; dependent possessive pronouns (my, our, your, his, her, its, their, one’s) and independent possessive pronouns (mine, ours, yours, his, hers, theirs) are in the genitive case.
Contrastive analysis[edit | edit source]
Chinese[edit | edit source]
Chinese has a similar structure, despite not being remotely related to English. The possessive particle 的 (Pinyin: de) is used after a noun to indicate possession. This often produces straightforward translations. For example, compare:
Chinese: 老师 的 笔 Pinyin: lǎoshī de bǐ English: teacher -’s pen
The Chinese equivalent to English’s possessive pronouns is formed from the Chinese personal pronouns, plus the possessive particle 的. For example, 我的 (wǒ de) consists of the 我 (first person pronoun) + 的 (possessive particle), and can be translated as either my or mine.
Pedagogy[edit | edit source]
EFL learners may incorrectly use possessive of instead of the genitive case, particularly if their L1 is a romance language. For example, in French Bonbon est le chien de Martin word-for-word translates into English as #Bonbon is the dog of Martin, but English speakers would say Bonbon is Martin’s dog.
References[edit | edit source]