a boy's pen or the boy's pen

Kay Champs

Senior Member
japanese
Would you say "a boy's pen" or "the boy's pen" to mean one of the pens the boy has. (Suppose that reference has been earlier made to the boy.)
I wish not to dwell upon the phrase in the context it is in but pass by with the fewest possible words. Here, "one of the pens the boy has" would be extremely unnatural in the context.
In
 
  • Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    As always, we still need context in order to understand how you intend to use the phrase. Either of the phrases could work, but we have to see the context before we could say which is more appropriate.
     

    ayed

    Senior Member
    Arabic(Saudi)
    Would you say "a boy's pen" or "the boy's pen" to mean one of the pens the boy has. (Suppose that reference has been earlier made to the boy.)
    I wish not to dwell upon the phrase in the context it is in but pass by with the fewest possible words. Here, "one of the pens the boy has" would be extremely unnatural in the context.
    In
    It could be :
    A pen of the boy's
    or
    a pen of his
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Would you say "a boy's pen" or "the boy's pen" to mean one of the pens the boy has. (Suppose that reference has been earlier made to the boy.)
    I wish not to dwell upon the phrase in the context it is in but pass by with the fewest possible words. Here, "one of the pens the boy has" would be extremely unnatural in the context.
    In
    If you are talking about a particular boy you have to use the definite article. The article refers to the boy, not the pen. "The boy's pen" means that this pen belongs to the boy; it does not mean it is his only pen.
     

    Kay Champs

    Senior Member
    japanese
    As Nunty says, the context is that the boy has already been referred to earlier so it demands the definite article whereas "pen" is only one of his pens and has not earlier been referred to so it demands the indefinte article. Hence my question of a (boy's) pen or (the boy)'s pen or what?

    I wish this question to be treated as a general one so it can be applied to a wide range of similar situations involving A's B, where A demands "the" and B "a/an."

    (Regarding Adam Cruge's answer, I heard, for what it is worth, that "of a person" should be "a person's; e.g., "a car of my farther" should be "my farther's car" This is one of the reasons I am wondering if a structure like "a boy's pen" could mean "one of the boy's pens")
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    The answer is always the same. If you are talking about a particular "owner" it is always "the". The article refers to the first noun, not the second.

    * the boy's pen = a pen that belongs to the boy, not necessarily his only pen
    * a girl's pony = some pony that belongs to some girl or a pony that is for girls in general
     

    Kay Champs

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Nunty says the boy's pen = a pen that belongs to the boy, not necessarily his only pen. That settles it. That suits the context. I can use this structure. Thank you all. :)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    "One of the pens the boy has" = "one of the boy's pens" (= "a pen of the boy's").

    "A boy's pen" does not mean "one of the pens the boy has".

    "The boy's pen" is ambiguous. "The boy's pen" can mean "one of the boy's pens", "the only pen the boy has", or "the pen that is for a boy", depending on context.
     
    Last edited:

    Kay Champs

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Forero and Nunty differ in understanding "A boy's pen."

    Could someone else provide a view about this?
     

    Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    I believe Forero edited his comment after Nunty made her comment. It appears that they are in agreement, now, and I agree with them.
    "A boy's pen" is not a very specific phrase. It does not state whose pen it is, and it also suggests that it is a generic pen that is used by boys.

    Imagine having a boys' soccer team and a girls' soccer team. It is similar to saying "This is a boy's jersey. This other one is a girl's jersey." We don't know who either jersey belongs to, but we do know that one is for a boy, and one is for a girl.
     
    Last edited:

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Sorry for the confusion. The clock, the computer, and I were in a struggle last night. I typed "not", but it failed to appear before I hit 'Enter'. I added it back in when I was too tired to do much else.

    We are each adding different details, but we all agree.
     

    Kay Champs

    Senior Member
    japanese
    When a generic sense is to be conveyed, isn't it always "a boyS' pen" rather than "a boy'S pen" (note the position of the apostrophe) ? :confused:
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    It's "a boy's pen" or "a man's pen", not "a boys' pen" or "a men's pen" because we think of a pen being associated with only one person at a time. "A men's team" is different because a team is always more than one person.
     

    Kay Champs

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Forero's comments starting with "Sorry for the confusion" were not there right after Cyperpunk when I posted my preceding thread.

    Anyway, I assume it was in ["A boy's pen" does mean "one of the pens the boy has".] that his "not" should have been put.

    Thank you all. Forero's last explanation as to why it should be "a boy's pen" and not "a boys' pen" is interesting. I learned another thing.

    p.s. It seems "NOT" in the second "we don't know" in "We don't know who either jersey belongs to, but we don't know that one is for a boy, and one is for a girl." is unnecessary. I think Forero meant "but we do know ...":)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top