A + possessive case

gabriel001234

Senior Member
Portuguese
I was watching a cartoon. The characters showed a book named "A father's watch". Does the article refer to "father" or "watch"?

Does it mean "A watch of father", "A watch of a father" or "The watch of a father"?
 
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I understand it as a watch belonging to someone who's a father. I suppose the article refers to "father" but I wouldn't think of trying to break it up like that.
     

    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Not the first; that would be "one of Father's watches" ("father" without an article is a term of address and would be capitalized).

    It could be either of the other two.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    "A term of address" is what we call someone when we are addressing (talking to) them, like a shop assistant addressing a cutomer by "Sir" or "Ma'am".
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    The article always goes with the owner.

    "This father's watch" → the watch that belongs to this father.
    "An old father's watch" → the OR a watch that belongs to an old father.​

    On the left is what a Romance language speaker would say, and on the right the English equivalent:

    "The dog of the girl" = The girl's dog.
    "The dog of a girl" = A girl's dog.
    "A dog of a girl" = A girl's dog.
    "A dog of the girl" = One of the girl's dogs.​
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Father's love is something incredible.
    This could work if you were referring to your father.

    If you were referring to fathers in general, you'd need: A father's love is something incredible.
    Another option, not as natural: Fathers' love is something incredible. (Note the position of the apostrophe. "Fathers" is plural here.)
     

    gabriel001234

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    This could work if you were referring to your father, and addressing him as such.

    If you were referring to fathers in general, you'd need: A father's love is something incredible.
    Another option, not as natural: Fathers' love is something incredible. (Note the position of the apostrophe. "Fathers" is plural here.)
    But Father's day doesn't require an article.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    So father's love would be love of a father or love of fathers (in general), right?
    I can't say what an isolated phrase means without a full sentence. In the sentences I suggested in #26, it refers to the love that fathers typically have towards their children.
     

    gabriel001234

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    I can't say what an isolated phrase means without a full sentence. In the sentences I suggested in #26, it refers to the love that fathers typically have towards their children.
    I can't say what an isolated phrase means without a full sentence. In the sentences I suggested in #26, it refers to the love that fathers typically have towards their children.
    I have already showed you a full sentence. Does "father's love" need to take an article before it?
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I was watching a cartoon. The characters showed a book named "A father's watch". Does the article refer to "father" or "watch"?

    Does it mean "A watch of father", "A watch of a father" or "The watch of a father"?
    The indefinite article is a modifier and as such it modifies the "head" of a noun phrase; in this case of A father's watch, the indefinite article modifies "watch," which is the "head" of this noun phrase. Now, if you consider that "father's watch" is a compound noun (forming a single unit), then the indefinite article modifies the compound noun "father's watch," which becomes the head of the noun phrase.

    Semantically, this is generic meaning. We understand that this is a watch that is worn by anyone who meets the definition of "father" (= "a watch of a father"). We also understand that it's a rather conservative/classic watch (maybe something like this, rather than something like this).
     

    paul-ny

    Member
    English-US
    To get back to your original question about "A Father's Watch" as a book title, it is a rather old-fashioned way to title a book and has a slightly elevated tone. It is like saying "a watch belonging to a father" and it is probably about a specific watch belonging to a specific father but the author is deliberately not letting you know whether it is a specific father or a specific watch; you will have to read it to find out. This is not an unusual form for titles; the non-specificity makes it sound more grand and universal. "A father's watch" would probably carry almost the same meaning (to this author) as "the watch of a father" although "the watch of a father" implies that the father only owns one watch. "A father's watch" would not carry the same meaning as "a watch of the father" because the phrase is not pointing to a specific father, even though it could turn out that the book is talking about a specific father. I hope this clarifies and doesn't confuse.
     
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