a friend of his / a friend of him

Hasselhoff

Member
Spain (Spanish, Catalan)
hi!
I heard a Spanish friend of mine saying something like "A friend of his said...". It sounded a bit weird to me. Is it possible to use that form? I would rather use "A friend of him".
Thanks!
 
  • caball3ro

    New Member
    Russian
    What if I refer to a noun instead of a pronoun?
    For example, should I say "a friend of my dad" or "a friend of my dad's"?
     

    Salsamore

    Senior Member
    USA English (Mich. & Calif.)
    Although logic would say otherwise, the more prevalent usage is "a friend of my dad's" although "a friend of my dad" is also common (though less so). I would consider both as grammatically correct.

    In some cases, you can change between the two forms to express different things. An oft-cited example:
    • a picture of his – a picture he owns/possesses
    • a picture of him – a picture that contains his image
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    What if I refer to a noun instead of a pronoun?
    For example, should I say "a friend of my dad" or "a friend of my dad's"?

    You can say both. I think the second form is somewhat more common. However, the use of the genitive "dad's" seems illogical to me, so I would suggest to non-native speakers that they use the non-genitive form when possible. With pronouns, as BONJOURBONAMOUR said, you must use the genitive form. Note that you say

    a friend of his
    a friend of hers, theirs, mine, yours, ours

    You can say

    a friend of John's
    a friend of my cousin's

    but you cannot say *"a friend of my mother's cousin's". You have to say "a friend of my mother's cousin". I don't know what the rule is.
     

    caball3ro

    New Member
    Russian
    I got it clearer now, thanks for your answers!

    (btw, I'm probably being annoying, but I've just had a doubt whether the sentence above is grammatically correct, so I would appreciate it if anyone corrected me... thanks again :))
     
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    easteralt

    New Member
    American English
    Hello,
    "A friend of" is a possessive form, so to add the "-'s" to the person is double. It is correct to say "A friend of my dad", but in California we often say "A friend of my dad's" anyway. It is just sloppy English that has become acceptable. I don't know how people in other parts of the country speak, but sometimes it can be quite different.
     

    pacadansc

    Senior Member
    English
    Hello,
    "A friend of" is a possessive form, so to add the "-'s" to the person is double. It is correct to say "A friend of my dad", but in California we often say "A friend of my dad's" anyway. It is just sloppy English that has become acceptable. I don't know how people in other parts of the country speak, but sometimes it can be quite different.

    I learned the same: "a friend of my dad's" was considered redundant. We were to say: "a friend of my dad". Nowadays, though, I hear the former more often than the latter in conversation.

    As for "a friend of his", and getting back to Hasselhoff's original question, this construction could be avoided by saying:
    "One of his friends said ..."

    Of course, "His friend said ... " is also correct.
     

    lechuzaderegaliz

    Member
    Estados Unidos, inglés
    I got it clearer now, thanks for your answers!

    (btw, I'm probably being annoying, but I've just had a doubt whether the sentence above is grammatically correct, so I would appreciate it if anyone corrected me... thanks again :))
    ¨
    "Thanks for your answers" is polite and warm and quite grammatically correct. However, "I got it clearer" sounds a little off. One reason is that "got" is the past tense. Another is that "clearer" is an adjective meaning more transparent, brighter or less clouded. You want the adverb, "clearly" in this case.

    "I get/I understand/I see/I'm getting it more clearly now."

    I hope this helps!
     

    Ian Tenor

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello,
    "A friend of" is a possessive form, so to add the "-'s" to the person is double. It is correct to say "A friend of my dad", but in California we often say "A friend of my dad's" anyway. It is just sloppy English that has become acceptable. I don't know how people in other parts of the country speak, but sometimes it can be quite different.

    In the same way that "A friend of mine" is correct whilst "A friend of me" is clearly not, "A friend of John's" and "A friend of my father's" are correct, even if they can sound more awkward than the less 'correct' forms, "A friend of John / my father". Of course, as has been pointed out, it is sometimes better to recast such phrases - "One of my father's friends".

    That this 'double genitive' sometimes 'feels' illogical does not make it incorrect, and certainly does not make it sloppy English, - quite the contrary - though it can sometimes feel awkward : I guess you'd just have to go with what feels 'right' to you.

    This usage always 'feels' right with pronouns, doesn't it ? - "That old car of OURS needs a good wash" (try 'US' !) - and more often than not 'feels' right with singular nouns and names "That dirty old bone of the dog's wants throwing in the bin" (less happy, perhaps, is 'dog'), or "It's about time we got rid of those old toys of Peter's" ('those old toys of Peter' !?)

    Where the wheels do start to come off is when using plural forms, or double nouns - "It's about time we got rid of those old toys of Peter's and Mary's / of Peter and Mary's", "It's about time we got rid of those old toys of the children's" : better maybe to say instead, "It's about time we got rid of the children's old toys".

    Of course, there are usages which don't take this 'double-genitive' and which would be awkward with it - 'The Marriage of Peter and Mary will take place &c.', 'The funeral of Mickey Mouse was held at the Rodents Retreat' (Rodent's / 'Rodents' ... ? Pace Lynne Truss' book 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves', let's please not go there !') in other words, do the events 'belong' to Mary & Peter or to the late Mr Mouse, in any meaningful sense ... ?

    Usage is a quagmire, for while "The Marriage of Figaro" is undoubtedly correct, so also is the title of Browning's poem, "A Toccata of Galuppi's", a title which puzzled me much as a schoolchild until I cottoned on to the 'double-genitive'.

    (The non-'double-genitive' - or whatever it's called - will doubtless gain ground. I am told it is all a matter of word order : expecting to see and hear gentives before nouns, rather than well after them, we adjust accordingly and say "A friend of my Dad" rather than "A friend of my Dad's". The aforementioned Lynne Truss writes of this in that funny-old book of hers.

    We see the same thing happening with possessive clauses - "John is a bore, and HIS / HIM turning up out of the blue really put the kybosh on the party." Whilst 'his' is correct, a genitive is mistrusted before a noun-phrase and the object form 'him' is often preferred.

    Again, in the phrase 'Between you and ME / I' - the subject form 'I' is often preferred because it feels 'right' at the start of a sentence, though the object form 'me' is plainly indicated.

    And Jesus' "Let him who is without sin ... " is often incorrectly rendered as "Let HE who is without sin ... ", because the subject form 'he' seems correct at the head of the phrase ' ... he who Is without sin', whereas the object form 'him' is required after the verb 'Let'. And if you don't believe anyone would write this, just google it and see for yourself ! ... And there's always the title of the Startrek episode['s], isn't there ?!)

    Ian
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    ... but you cannot say *"a friend of my mother's cousin's". You have to say "a friend of my mother's cousin". I don't know what the rule is.
    Actually, I would say "a friend of my mother's cousin's" though I would be equally likely to say it without a final "'s".

    Para mí el "doble genitivo" es una forma familiar. "My dad" y "my mother's cousin" son familia. Si Peter Smith es alquien que cononzco digo "a friend of Peter Smith's", pero si es el famoso Peter Falk diría probablemente "a friend of Peter Falk".

    Otro uso "familiar" es algo como "that dog of Peter Falk's" = "el perro ese de Peter Falk", lo cual contraste con "that dog of Peter Falk" = "ese perro de Peter Falk". La diferencia está en cómo pensamos del perro en cuestión.
     

    lee77

    New Member
    English
    I agree with Ian. We often say a friend of his or a friend of theirs but both word combinations are grammatically incorrect. The correct way to refer to the friend is "a friend of him" or a "friend of them", respectively. His and their are both possessive adjectives and as such should be used to describe nouns, such as "his car" or "their backyard"; as a possessive adjective there should be no word that can be characterized as pertaining to it as there can be with a noun.

    Think of it this way. It is correct to say the "light of the moon" but we would never say the "light of the moon's". The moon is the noun but the moon's is an adjective and should be used to describe something that pertains to the moon such as the moon's color or the moon's reflection, etc.

    Other examples of correct and incorrect usage to further my point:

    Correct: The color of the paint.
    Incorrect: The color of the paint's.

    Correct: The friend of my brother.
    Incorrect: The friend of my brother's.

    Again, if you were to substitute a pronoun for your brother, you would use him not his. Therefore, you would say a friend of him (my brother) not a friend of his.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The possessive pronoun 'his' is the correct form to use in this context. Our dictionary describes this particular use of his this way:

    2. the form of the pronoun he used to show possession, or to mean "that or those belonging to him'':​
    His was the strangest remark of all.
    I borrowed a tie of his.
    [ be + ~] I thought it was his.

    The same rule applies to 'her', its', yours and their.
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Correct: The friend of my brother.
    Incorrect: The friend of my brother's.

    Again, if you were to substitute a pronoun for your brother, you would use him not his. Therefore, you would say a friend of him (my brother) not a friend of his.

    I disagree on two points.

    First, your example labeled "incorrect" above is not incorrect, although the definite article makes it sound less natural than the indefinite article would (a friend of my brother's), since one assumes that the brother has more than one friend.

    Second, I (and almost all other native English speakers) would indeed say "a friend of his" and NOT "a friend of him."

    Several people have explained that this usage is correct, and I think you are confusing English learners with the above statements.
     

    lee77

    New Member
    English
    No, I am not confusing English learners. Americans have not spoken the English language correctly for years and therefore, what is correct usage, does not sound correct most the time. If one were to say a "friend of my brother's" that would be a double possessive and is definitely incorrect. A friend of my brother is the correct prepositional phrase. It just is rarely spoken that way and so we typically don't recognize it as being correct.
     

    User With No Name

    Senior Member
    English
    Americans have not spoken the English language correctly for years and therefore, what is correct usage, does not sound correct most the time. If one were to say a "friend of my brother's" that would be a double possessive and is definitely incorrect. A friend of my brother is the correct prepositional phrase.
    Nonsense.

    Go find me half a dozen published examples from reputable authors in the last 50 years of "a friend of him" and maybe I will take your comment seriously.
     
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    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    If one were to say a "friend of my brother's" that would be a double possessive and is definitely incorrect. A friend of my brother is the correct prepositional phrase.

    That's not right. Way back in post #4 (2008) a very good example was given of why this "double possessive" is needed.

    a picture of his – a picture he owns/possesses
    a picture of him – a picture that contains his image

    And as User points out, nobody (except you, apparently) would say "of him" or "of me" in the following dialog.

    -Is that Fred over there?
    -No, that's Kevin. Fred is a friend of his.
    -Well, any friend of Fred is a friend of mine.

    This construction has a very long history and is considered correct usage, even if it sometimes seems redundant. I say that you are confusing English learners because you are going against the standard, accepted usage, and trying to tell them that they should use a form that is non-standard and sounds unnatural.
     
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