Alternatives to the Saxon genitive.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Ondrus, Apr 20, 2013.

  1. Ondrus New Member

    Prague
    Czech
    Hi guys,

    I have one, maybe a bit stupid, question. I suppose I can't use the saxon genitive when describing some possessivness or characteristics and properties of non-living things. The expressions like bus's driver, movie's duration, wine's flavor, hemp's biomass, greenhouse gas's emissions etc. should be thus incorrect. Right?

    If my assumption is correct, I can use the presposition "of" instead of the saxon genitive. There is one problem, though. In written text I need to avoid often repetetive using of this preposition. For instance "One of the significant disadvantages of use of fossil fuels..." (I have millions of sentences like this in my diploma thesis) It sounds really horrible to me (I'm sure not only to me). :( How could I avoid it, please? Are there any other alternatives?

    I'd be really gratefull for any advices.:)
     
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    Hello Ondrus, and Welcome to the Forum! :)

    There are ways of avoiding 'of', I suppose, though I'm not sure just how much of a problem this truly is.

    (There are ways to avoiding 'of', I suppose, though I'm not sure just how much a problem this truly is.)

    >The expressions like bus's driver, movie's duration, wine's flavor, hemp's biomass, greenhouse gas's emissions etc.

    I think some can, and some can't, eg:

    'bus's driver' ... there's a ready-made term for this; it's 'bus driver', thus your version will sound odd.

    'movie's duration', 'wine's flavor', 'hemp's biomass' < -- these seem fine to me.

    'greenhouse gas's emissions' = 'greenhouse gas emissions' - that's the term I hear on the news. (Some might prefer it hyphenated 'greenhouse-gas emissions')


    >"One of the significant disadvantages of use of fossil fuels..."

    "One significant disadvantage of using fossil fuels..."

    "One significant disadvantage of fossil-fuel use"

    or you could reduce your 'of' emissions to zero:

    "One significant disadvantage to using fossil fuels..."

    "One significant disadvantage in using fossil fuels..."

    "One significant disadvantage that flows from using fossil fuels..."


    Of course, there are many other ways to dodge the 'of', so we couldn't hope to list them all here.

    You may find the following page of links useful: saxon genitive - WordReference.com Dictionary of English :)
     
  3. Ondrus New Member

    Prague
    Czech
    Thank you, Beryl.
     
  4. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    But basically, Ondrus, don't worry about repeating "of", within reason. Repetition of a word is not the grave mistake that it seems to be in some other languages (French, Russian); and it's certainly better than trying to use the Saxon genitive for inanimate objects, which is wrong 99% of the time.
     
  5. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    :confused:

    I don't think that it's incorrect to use the Saxon genitive with inanimate objects at all: the house's roof, the fire's heat, the ice cream's peculiar flavor...

    I think Beryl's point is important, though: when we have a set phrase that doesn't use the genitive, the genitive sounds odd (so body's temperature and bus's driver​ sound odd).
     
  6. ZangiefZangado Junior Member

    Brazil
    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    I think it is funny that I have come accross this thread. I am currently writing a paper on this exact subject.
    Indeed, sometimes I have the same problem, so if you don't mind, I would like to spice things up a bit.
    I work as a translator, so I try my best to both understand and express the author's original meaning.

    "A beach chair" and
    "A chair at the beach" are two completely different noun phrases.
    A beach chair may be a specific kind of chair which you may place at your garden, for example.
    And "a chair at the beach", as strange as it may seem, can be a mahogany chair or any chair whatsoever which you found at the beach.

    Also, there comes that old question: how different is
    "My mother's name" from
    "The name of my mother" in terms of emphasis?

    I am not a native speaker of English, so I would really appreciate your thoughts on that.
     
  7. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    This is not the genitive; in the first, "beach" being used adjectivally.
    What do you mean by name? Forename, maiden name, married name, previous name, surname, family name?

    The answer to your question lies in the context.
     
  8. london calling Senior Member

    SALERNO, ITALY
    UK ENGLISH
    Hello.:)

    I fail to see what "beach chair" has to do with the genitive.;) This is not the possessive case: beach merely serves as an adjective. Have a look at these photos from Google Images of beach chairs.:) The beach obviously does not possess the chairs. These photos are all of chairs on a beach/at the beach. And at this stage I cannot understand why you wish to differentiate between a beach chair and a chair on/at the beach, when they are basically the same thing.:)

    Regards My mother's name/The name of my mother. I do not believe this is problem of emphasis: we simply do not say The name of my mother any more in Modern English, except maybe in expressions like The car is in the name of my mother, but even then we would be more likely to say The car is in my mother's name.:)

    Sorry, Paul! Mind you, we're saying the same thing.;)

    << No longer needed. >>
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2013
  9. Ondrus New Member

    Prague
    Czech
    Thank you for all responses. Now, it doesn't seem to be such a trivial issue (at least for us - the non-native speakers), as I initially thought. :)
     
  10. ZangiefZangado Junior Member

    Brazil
    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    Here is why adjectives and genitives have much in common:
    "Monthly progress report" is ambiguous. What is monthly? The progress or the report?
    I know hyphens have been abolished 99% of the times, but just for clarity, we have two phrases:
    "A monthly-progress report" (as opposed to annual and semi-annual reports) and "A monthly progress-report" (as opposed to monthly finance reports or monthly sales reports).

    You may think of both "monthly" and "progress" as adjectives if you think of word classes in this context. But this is specifically English-like, I believe. If you think in Portuguese, which is my native language, this whole problem is solved with the equivalent "of... of... of..." structure in English.
    So instead of "adjectivizing" a word, we simply place a <"do" (although in Portuguese)> before everything, so the words become nouns.
    <<Portuguese deleted.>>

    "The wife of the mechanic from the repair shop at the corner of my school studies with me".

    I know I could say "The mechanic's wife studies with me". But since the "repair shop" refers to the mechanic (not the wife), it would be strange to say "The mechanic's wife from the repair shop[...]"

    Sometimes the English language stacks up plenty of adjectives and complements and compound nouns in a single noun phrase. Many times translators translating from English have to drop something out in order to sound more idiomatic in the target language.

    I am sorry for being all over the place, and thank you all for the attention so far.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013
  11. ZangiefZangado Junior Member

    Brazil
    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    What do you all think is more idiomatic?
    "The pilot is concerned about the passengers' safety"
    "The pilot is concerned about passengers safety" or
    "The pilot is concerned about the safety of passengers"
    Any strong difference among and between the three sentences?

    By the way, is the second sentence even grammatical? Sometimes I think it is possible to use an "adjectivized" noun in the plural,
    e.g. "A couples meeting" (many couples gather together),
    but in general I feel it is strange to use it.
     
  12. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    To me:
    "The pilot is concerned about the passengers' safety" this indicates that the pilot is concerned about the safety of some specific passengers.
    "The pilot is concerned about passengers safety" is wrong
    "The pilot is concerned about the safety of passengers" this indicates a concern for the safety of all passengers who might fly.

    "A couples meeting" (many couples gather together), This is not a genitive, it means, "a meeting for couples." (Not of couples, which is genitive.) This is why your second example is wrong.

    If we had a sentence, "The couples
    ' meeting was ruined by rain." then this would mean that a meeting of couples was ruined, but note the genitive 's'.
     
  13. london calling Senior Member

    SALERNO, ITALY
    UK ENGLISH
    A monthly progress report : monthly is a modifier (adjective) here, it modifies "progress report".;) I really do not think this is ambiguous::)

    Regards your native language: in Italian (which I speak and write fluently) it is the same. As you say, it solves the problem, but only because you have no choice, there being no "Saxon" genitive (interesting that the rest of the world speaks of the Saxon Genitive when we do not;).

    I also agree with Paul's reply to your other post. I have a feeling you tend to mix up adjectives and the genitive, as you did above (the beach chair example you made).:)
     
  14. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    Wales
    British English
    The house's roof and the fire's heat etc. sound odd to me. I'd definitely use of. Nevertheless, I wouldn't hesitate to put an inanimate noun into the genitive if that made my
    meaning clearer or avoided an awkward construction. A day's work is better than the work of a day. And He walked towards the water's edge is at least as good as He walked towards the edge of the water, although perhaps a little more literary. But I'd say the cliff edge or the edge of the cliff and not the cliff's edge. Don't ask me why.
    I'd wouldn't hyphenate monthly progress report. Progress clearly refers to report and not monthly. Otherwise a report might be produced every two years detailing the progress made each month.
    I'd say:
    The pilot is concerned about the passengers' safety (or the safety of the passengers) - about the safety of his own passengers.
    The pilot is concerned about passenger safety - about the safety of all passengers in general.
    Sports commentators say things like The ball came off the head of Gerrard. This is commentator-speak. It emphasises Gerrard rather than head. In normal speech we'd say ...off Gerrard's head.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013
  15. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    "That bus driver" - That particular person who drives buses
    "That bus's driver" - The person who is/was driving that particular bus.
     
  16. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    Wales
    British English
    I'd probably say the driver of that bus.
     
  17. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    :thumbsup:

    I'd virtually never use an apostrophe-s after a thing as inanimate as a bus.
     
  18. london calling Senior Member

    SALERNO, ITALY
    UK ENGLISH
    I agree.;) We tend to prefer an adjective in these cases.

    However, I must say I can understand the distinction that RMI makes between that bus driver and that bus's driver : I'd also say that bus's driver quite happily (although the driver of that bus is fine, of course.)
     
  19. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    Hullo, Ondrus and a smiling :) Hullllo! to London

    This is the way I see the difference between [noun's noun] and [noun of noun].

    In, for example,
    "This is our janitor's son, Michele", the speaker is introducing Michele to her interlocutor. In doing so, she's adding a piece of information: Michele is her janitor's son.
    This sentence may be appropriate in a scenario in which:
    A. the interlocutor knows the speaker’s janitor,
    B. the speaker and the interlocutor have been exchanging information, say, on their respective janitors,
    C. the interlocutor knows that the speaker has a janitor,
    D. all establisments in the speaker's area have a janitor, therefore the fact of the speaker’s having one is considerd “given info”.

    Each of the conditions above contribute to making the noun phrase "my janitor" shared knowledge. In other words, the notion <speaker — have janitor > is in the air.
    Obviously, all the above could be said about:
    This is Michele, our janitor’s son”.

    A different scenario:

    "This is Michele, the son of our janitor"
    The speaker is introducing Michele to her interlocutor and in doing so, she's also adding a piece of information: Michele is her janitor's son. This sentence may be appropriate in a scenario in which:

    A. the interlocutor does not know the janitor,
    B. the speaker and the interlocutor have not been exchanging information on their respective janitors,
    C. the interlocutor does not know that the speaker has a janitor,
    D. not all establisments in the speaker's area have a janitor,

    Each of the above contribute to making the noun phrase "my janitor" a new, unexpected, element in the exchange.

    It's easy to see that the utterance in the second scenario has no alternatives — ie, the use of the structure [noun's noun] is blocked:

    "*This is Michele, our janitor's … "

    exactly because this time the janitor is not “in the air”. The evidence of this is that if the sentence in the second scenario were to be followed by, say, a proper noun, we’d have something like:

    "This is Michele, the son of our janitor, Sig. Rossi"

    but certainly not:

    "* This is the son of our janitor, Michele"

    GS
     
  20. london calling Senior Member

    SALERNO, ITALY
    UK ENGLISH
    Giorgio, I can't imagine myself ever saying "This is Michele, the son of our janitor". It sounds like a translation.:) And I don't make the distinctions you make at all. I'd say "This is Michele, our janitor's son".:)
     
  21. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Continuing on from GS's post... I unfortunately concur with london. These just aren't distinctions we make in English.

    Even worse, both "Michele, the son of our janitor, Sig. Rossi" and "Michele, our janitor Sig. Rossi's son" would be possible.

    And for me, I would have no problem talking about "that bus's" driver, front wheel, passenger manifest, luggage compartment's key, etc.
     
  22. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Nor me. In fact they don't exist.
     
  23. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    Hullo, everyone. :)

    I accept your criticism with the utmost respect and consideration. One thing, though, I must say, lucas,: I never wrote "Michele, our janitor Sig. Rossi's son".

    All the best.

    GS
     
  24. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    That's what I meant to say - the sentence with a long phrase with an apostrophe-s stuck to it is also​ possible in English.
     

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