A friend of Peter/A friend of Peter's

  • Henryk

    Senior Member
    Germany, German
    Which phrase do you consider more acceptable?

    1. "He's a friend of Peter".

    2. "He's a friend of Peter's".
    The first. The second would rather mean: "He's a friend of Peter's friend." But you better wait for the native speakers to err on the side of caution.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Unfortunately, you got it wrong, Henryk.

    1. is incorrect.
    2. is correct and mean's "Peter's friend."
     

    jess oh seven

    Senior Member
    UK/US English
    They both sound fine to me.

    Actually, the second one sounds better to me, at least. I'm not sure why.

    The first does sound a bit unnatural though. This is what learners of English tend to say, forgetting about the ol' genetive.

    But of course, the most habitual way of expressing that idea would be to merely say "He's Peter's friend".
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I would never say the first. Perhaps it's a British-American difference, or my own snobbishness. :D
     

    Henryk

    Senior Member
    Germany, German
    Ok, so I better stay away from the English forum for a while. :eek: At least I've learnt something new, albeit it's painful as I gave a wrong answer.

    Sorry, Cecillo.
     

    roxcyn

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English [AmE]
    Ok, so I better stay away from the English forum for a while. :eek: At least I've learnt something new, albeit it's painful as I gave a wrong answer.

    Sorry, Cecillo.
    Well, I must admit I have given wrong answers, too. (and look at me! The native speaker). :eek:

    Pablo
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I'm surprised - shocked, almost.

    "A friend of Peter" does not sound like English to me. It sounds like something a non-native would say. Sure, it's grammatically thinkable, but it's just not idiomatic (at least in my opinion).

    Obviously, though, at least two native speakers have no problem with it, so perhaps it's a matter of personal preference.
     

    roxcyn

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English [AmE]
    I'm surprised - shocked, almost.

    "A friend of Peter" does not sound like English to me. It sounds like something a non-native would say. Sure, it's grammatically thinkable, but it's just not idiomatic (at least in my opinion).

    Obviously, though, at least two native speakers have no problem with it, so perhaps it's a matter of personal preference.
    You are right, it is wrong. Just read the English grammar I have. Here is the text:

    He is a friend of Peter's (friend).

    Peace,
    Pablo
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    According to what I have learned, "a friend of Peter's" denotes that Peter has several friends and that "a friend" is one of them.
    That's correct, but it's important to bear in mind that - unlike in German - "Peter's friend" can also mean "one of Peter's friends" (so it need not mean that Peter has only one friend). Context alone can determine whether it means "one of Peter's friends" or "Peter's only friend."
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    For me, it's "a friend of Peter's".

    Jester, I think I know why you are saying this: A friend of Peter's helped me at the shop today. This might suggest that Peter has several friends. However, Bob is a lovely guy - he's a friend of Peter's. This doesn't have the same "feeling" of Peter having several friends. Or perhaps I have completely misunderstood you?

    Henryk. Please don't be embarrassed. It was a very logical mistake, and one that made me think. Your English is excellent.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I would say, and write, "He's a friend of Peter's".
    But the conversation on this thread has made me look around for support for this position.

    It is clear that "He's a friend of me" is not correct, but it's not hard to find reference sources to support "He's a friend of Peter." I've learnt that this form is called double genitive or post-genitive.

    For example:
    It is perfectly correct to do without this double genitive when the genitive relationship is between nouns:
    A friend of my daughter is a lawyer.
    A friend of my daughters is a lawyer.
    Source
    A good many of us do use some double genitives and do not notice that they are double. Some language liberals argue that in Informal and Casual contexts the double genitive is idiomatic and not overkill, but few editors of Standard English will be likely to let it stand in Formal writing. It’s either friends of my sister or my sister’s friends; even in conversation, friends of my sister’s may grate harshly on some purists’ ears.
    Source
    I don't have my New Fowler beside me right now, unfortunately. But there is certainly room for debate, and no reason for those who support a friend of Peter to apologise :)
     

    jester.

    Senior Member
    Germany -> German
    Jester, I think I know why you are saying this: A friend of Peter's helped me at the shop today. This might suggest that Peter has several friends. However, Bob is a lovely guy - he's a friend of Peter's. This doesn't have the same "feeling" of Peter having several friends. Or perhaps I have completely misunderstood you?

    Henryk. Please don't be embarrassed. It was a very logical mistake, and one that made me think. Your English is excellent.
    No, you have not misunderstood me. And you're right about the second sentence. It does not quite have the same feeling. However, I'm not sure why...
     

    Cecilio

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Valencian/Catalan
    I suppose that the things said in this thread also apply in other cases. For example: "a student of Peter's", "a girlfriend of mine", "a cousin of John's", "an admirer of Peter's", "a fan of Michael's", "a sister of My girlfriend's", etc. Is it so?
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks, Panjandrum. I am trying to clear my mind and think about the most idiomatic version, natural to my ears and it's still definitely "A friend of Peter's".

    (Henryk. I hope you feel better now).

    Edit: Yes, it is, cecelio.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I'm with Emma - "a friend of Peter's" would still be my choice, while "a friend of Peter" sounds dissonant to my ears.

    Nevertheless, I've thought about the issue some more and I've realized that it's not as simple as I might have thought.

    We say, for example, "a friend of a friend" and "a friend of the family." In these contexts, I would not use 's.

    However, I might use "a friend of my friend's," if "my friend" is known. In that context, it would be the same as saying "a friend of Peter's."

    Example:

    -Who was that on the phone? Was that your friend, the one I met yesterday?
    -No, it wasn't my friend. It was a friend of my friend's.

    As for the double genitive in formal writing, I guess I'm not much of a purist because I certainly wouldn't systematically blue-pencil it. In fact, I might go so far as to add an 's in certain contexts where one was missing!

    And they say English is easy! :eek:
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I suppose that the things said in this thread also apply in other cases. ... Is it so?
    Not so. I think the situation is clearer for some of the examples.
    Consider the following.

    "a student of Peter's",
    Peter is an academic, a student of Peter's is a student in one of Peter's classes.
    A student of Peter, on the other hand is someone who studies Peter.
    Substitute Wittgenstein for Peter - it may help.

    "a girlfriend of mine",
    In this case, the possessor is a pronoun, not a noun. "A girlfriend of me." :eek:

    "an admirer of Peter's", "a fan of Michael's",
    I am almost convinced that I would not use the 's in these examples. I am a fan of Van Morrison, not of Van Morrison's.

    "a sister of my girlfriend's", "a cousin of John's",
    These seem to me to be directly equivalent to the thread topic.
     

    hamlet

    Senior Member
    Français (FR)
    I often see in newspapers or magazines : "John X, a friend of Peter Thing, said that....". Is this a mistake or does that mean you can say "Peter Thing is a friend of John X" (instead of John X's)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    This is not a solid rule, as far as I understand. I don't know that it could be called a mistake; it's more of "competing standards" for indicating possession. I prefer the 's version because it avoids ambiguity in certain situations. I read one example yesterday:

    This work by Rembrandt, a portrait of the king, is...
    This work by Rembrandt, a portrait of the king's, is...

    The first one can be interpreted as the image in the portrait being that of the king. The second one clearly indicates that the king owns the portrait (although we don't know the subject of the portrait.)

    I don't know that anyone would consider "friend of me" to be correct, although it's a logical extension of "a friend of Peter Thing", isn't it?
     

    iskndarbey

    Senior Member
    US, English
    I don't know that anyone would consider "friend of me" to be correct, although it's a logical extension of "a friend of Peter Thing", isn't it?
    Not really; different parts of speech require different rules in all sorts of situations, and 'me'/'mine' are pronouns whereas 'Peter Thing' is an unfortunately named noun. When used with pronouns, this structure always requires the possessive version: "a friend of hers", "a friend of theirs", etc., never "a friend of her" or "a friend of she" or "a friend of them". With nouns the 's is optional.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Today's thread has been added to one of the previous threads on this topic. Please read from the beginning - it is not very long.

    (Previous thread found by looking up friend of in the WR Dictionary.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Weird!

    Again, this is something I never thought about, in English.

    my freind, a freind of mine
    your freind, a freind of yours
    ***his/her friend, a friend of his (no change)
    her friend, a friend of his/hers
    [its friend, a friend of its??? — I can't imagine saying this…]

    our friend, a friend of ours
    your freind, a freind of yours
    their friend, a friend of theirs

    "Me" is not a choice because there is no such thing as "me friend", unless we consider dialects, non-standard usage. :)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    JamesM said:
    I don't know that anyone would consider "friend of me" to be correct, although it's a logical extension of "a friend of Peter Thing", isn't it?
    Not really; different parts of speech require different rules in all sorts of situations, and 'me'/'mine' are pronouns whereas 'Peter Thing' is an unfortunately named noun. When used with pronouns, this structure always requires the possessive version: "a friend of hers", "a friend of theirs", etc., never "a friend of her" or "a friend of she" or "a friend of them". With nouns the 's is optional.
    I think there's something to be said for both points of view here. I don't think James is denying that 'different parts of speech require different rules in all sorts of situations'. I share his view that 'A friend of him' is a more logical extension of 'a friend of X' than is the correct 'A friend of his'. After all what is a pronoun if it can't stand in for (pro) a noun? I remember as a child reflecting on the strangeness of the construction.
     

    iskndarbey

    Senior Member
    US, English
    I think there's something to be said for both points of view here. I don't think James is denying that 'different parts of speech require different rules in all sorts of situations'. I share his view that 'A friend of him' is a more logical extension of 'a friend of X' than is the correct 'A friend of his'. After all what is a pronoun if it can't stand in for (pro) a noun? I remember as a child reflecting on the strangeness of the construction.
    Yes, pronouns can stand in for nouns, but they are also marked for case in English whereas nouns are not, so you can't toss them about willy-nilly whenever you want to replace a noun. Here we need the genitive pronoun so 'mine' (or 'his', etc.) is the only option to replace 'Peter Thing' or 'Peter Thing's' ; you could also say 'Peter Thing' is in the genitive case in this sentence but it would be a distinction without a difference.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I remember as a child reflecting on the strangeness of the construction.
    Me too, TT. Well, perhaps not as a child as such, but I certainly ponder over it nowadays. While I wouldn't bat an eye over saying A friend of mine, I find that every time I come to say A friend of Peter it comes out as:
    A friend of Peter ... 's
    with the 's genitive as a kind of afterthought ~ because despite the fact that it feels 'odd' it feels less so than A friend of Peter.
    Whereas A friend of Peter O'Thing, the dustman from County Cork sounds perfectly ok. Funny thing, English.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    That's not true -- 'his' and 'its' are the same but her(s) changes, the same as our(s), their(s), your(s).
    Ah, you are right. I'll change that.

    I think my analysis was on the right track, but I posted too soon. :)
    I think there's something to be said for both points of view here. I don't think James is denying that 'different parts of speech require different rules in all sorts of situations'. I share his view that 'A friend of him' is a more logical extension of 'a friend of X' than is the correct 'A friend of his'.
    Are you suggesting that English should be logical? ;)

    If it were, millions of people would no longer frustrate themselves with all the exceptions!
    Me too, TT. Well, perhaps not as a child as such, but I certainly ponder over it nowadays. While I wouldn't bat an eye over saying A friend of mine, I find that every time I come to say A friend of Peter it comes out as:
    A friend of Peter ... 's
    with the 's genitive as a kind of afterthought ~ because despite the fact that it feels 'odd' it feels less so than A friend of Peter.
    Whereas A friend of Peter O'Thing, the dustman from County Cork sounds perfectly ok. Funny thing, English.
    I just though of something:

    "a friend of John Adams's"

    This is logical, no different from "a friend of Peter's", but it sounds absolutely horrible to me.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    A friend of mine. [My friend]
    A friend of Peter's. [A friend of the Peter we know]
    A friend of Peter Falk. [A friend of the famous Peter Falk]
    A friend of the Lord. [Someone who loves the Lord]
    A friend of the Lord's. [Someone whom the Lord loves]
     

    piraña utria

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Colombian with Caribbean nuanc
    Hi friends:

    I’ve just studied all the posts in this so-interesting thread, but there’s a little doubt related to that is remaining on my mind still, especially because of the use of “the only” in this excerpt from written version of Disney’s Ratatouille, by Katherine Emmons and Mary Olin (Norma, Bogotá, 2008, page 37), that I’m currently reading with my son:

    “One day, the waiter announced that a customer wanted a new dish from Linguini! Furious and jealous, Skinner found the only recipe of Gusteau’s that had failed…

    Supposing Gusteau’s is related exclusively to the chef, not the restaurant (It’d be possible either), is it absolutely necessary the possessive form or “the only recipe of Gusteau” would be right in this case?

    Thanks in advance for your answers,
     

    Skin

    Senior Member
    Italian
    A friend of mine. [My friend]
    A friend of Peter's. [A friend of the Peter we know]
    A friend of Peter Falk. [A friend of the famous Peter Falk]
    A friend of the Lord. [Someone who loves the Lord]
    A friend of the Lord's. [Someone whom the Lord loves]
    May I butt in? Being a non-native, I tend to follow the rules of grammar more than my ears.
    The double genitive is used in English because neither the possessive adjective nor the possessive form of a proper noun (=Tom's) can be preceded by an indefinite article, a numeral, a demonstrative or an indefinite adjective.
    So you can't say "A my friend, a Tom's friend", but have to say "A friend of mine, a friend of Tom's"
    Similarly: "A few friends of my brother's, some words of the teacher's, this book of hers"

    Forero, I think that "a friend of mine" doesn't mean "my friend", but "one of my friends".

    Look at the difference:
    1) Two friends of my uncle's = my uncle has got a number of friends and these are two of them
    2) My uncle's two friends = he's got only these two friends or at least these two are the only ones I'm considering now

    Bye, Skin
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    A friend of mine. [My friend]
    A friend of Peter's. [A friend of the Peter we know]
    A friend of Peter Falk. [A friend of the famous Peter Falk]
    A friend of the Lord. [Someone who loves the Lord]
    A friend of the Lord's. [Someone whom the Lord loves]
    May I butt in? Being a non-native, I tend to follow the rules of grammar more than my ears.
    The double genitive is used in English because neither the possessive adjective nor the possessive form of a proper noun (=Tom's) can be preceded by an indefinite article, a numeral, a demonstrative or an indefinite adjective.
    So you can't say "A my friend, a Tom's friend", but have to say "A friend of mine, a friend of Tom's"
    Similarly: "A few friends of my brother's, some words of the teacher's, this book of hers"

    Forero, I think that "a friend of mine" doesn't mean "my friend", but "one of my friends".

    Look at the difference:
    1) Two friends of my uncle's = my uncle has got a number of friends and these are two of them
    2) My uncle's two friends = he's got only these two friends or at least these two are the only ones I'm considering now

    Bye, Skin
    Hi, Skin.

    You've found one of the main reasons we use the "double genitive".

    Yes, "a friend of mine" does often mean "one of my friends". So does "my friend". I'd say "a friend of mine" and "my friend" are sometimes synonymous, but not always.

    "Two friends of my uncle's" and "my uncle's two friends" are also sometimes synonymous, but "my uncle's two friends" can mean "the two friends my uncle has" and "two friends of my uncle's" cannot mean that because the definite article adds meaning.

    "Some words of the teacher's" is unusual but is most likely an example of the article some. To use the indefinite adjective some, we would much more likely say "some of the teacher's words".

    I'll also mention that you don't need to specify indefinite article in your rule because the same thing applies to the definite article. The cannot come before a possessive form, but we can say "the friend of mine".
     
    Last edited:

    gogovik

    New Member
    Chinese
    I just saw something from a book called Common Errors in English:

    <Phrases combining "of" with a noun followed by "S" may seem redundant, since both indicate possession; nevertheless, "a friend of Karen's" is standard English, just as "a friend of Karen" and "Karen's friend" are.>

    Hope it helps.
     

    Dosunty

    New Member
    English - US
    It can be looked at like this:

    "a cup of water" vs. "a cup of water's"

    The first cup is filled with water (or made of water). The second cup belongs to water.

    So, a friend of me is a friend who contains me or is composed of me. A friend of mine is a friend who belongs to me.

    This way, the second indicator of possession becomes necessary in order to distinguish between the content or composition of something's and the owner of something's.

    (An "educated" guess)
     

    newname

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    I have read all posts and am still confused when I write this phrase:
    the company (business) of others' (=people's) or the company of others (=people). Which one is correct?

    Thank you.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I have read all posts and am still confused when I write this phrase:
    the company (business) of others' (=people's) or the company of others (=people). Which one is correct?

    Thank you.
    Please post a sentence that includes the phrase you are asking about. It's difficult to comment on the phrase by itself.
     

    newname

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    panjandrum Re: A friend of Peter/A friend of Peter's
    That is correct without the apostrophe.
    You could also write this as:
    He does not like others' company.
    ... but it seems a bit odd.
    So you implicitly agree that
    a friend of Peter
    is correct:confused:
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    panjandrum said:
    That is correct without the apostrophe.
    You could also write this as:
    He does not like others' company.
    ... but it seems a bit odd.
    So you implicitly agree that
    a friend of Peter
    is correct:confused:
    I would not infer that from what I wrote: "friend" is not the same kind of thing as "company".
    Peter's friend is a person.
    Others' company is abstract.

    But as I said earlier, I find nothing to suggest that "a friend of Peter" is incorrect, though it's not what I would normally say.
     
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