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Genitive case

From Teflpedia

The genitive case (/ˈʤenətɪv/) or possessive case (/pə'zesɪv/) is a grammatical case found in English and related languages.[1]

In linguistics notation, this is commonly abbreviated as GEN.

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;

The wh- pronoun whose is in the genitive case and is used to ask questions about possession, for example Whose bike is this?

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.

Second, nouns are inflected with the genitive ’s suffix to mark the genitive case. Bare genitives also occur. These form the phrasal head of genitive noun phrases.

Syntactically, genitives may either be dependent genitives or independent genitives. Independent genitives act as determiners.


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
Pinyin: lǎoshī de
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]