descriptive genitives

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High on grammar

Senior Member
Farsi
Hi, everyone!

According to “The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language the following descriptive genitives are allowed:

a summer ‘s day / A winter ‘s day



but not “a fall’s day” or “a spring’s day”. Why is that?

Thanks
 
  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I suspect it is because of William Shakespeare.

    The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies,[1] some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Winter's_Tale


    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate;
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date
    Sonnet 18 - William Shakespeare
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonnet_18
     

    High on grammar

    Senior Member
    Farsi
    I suspect it is because of William Shakespeare.

    The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies,[1] some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Winter's_Tale


    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate;
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date
    Sonnet 18 - William Shakespeare
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonnet_18

    But why is it that of the four season names in English only two , winter and summer, can take the genitive .
    I mean what is wrong with a spring's day or even an autumn's day?

    Thanks
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    TT's right that we can use a genitive when we're referring to a particular autumn/fall, or a particular spring.

    But we don't say "an autumn's day/a fall's day" or "a spring's day" in the same way that we can say "a summer's day" or "a winter's day".

    As Andy says, that's just the way it is....
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    But why is it that of the four season names in English only two , winter and summer, can take the genitive .
    I mean what is wrong with a spring's day or even an autumn's day?

    Thanks
    My point is that many phrases in English are influenced by Shakespeare's precedent. If he had written Shall I compare thee to an autumn's day? then we would probably think that acceptable. It is only a surmise.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I looked for the earliest record of the seasons, spring, summer and winter in the OED
    816 in Birch Cartul. Saxon. (1885) I. 495 Æt þæs bernes ende æt ðæs wæ teres sprynge.
    c825 Vesp. Psalter lxxiii. 17 Aestatem & ver, sumur & lenten.
    c888 Ælfred tr. Boethius De Consol. Philos. xxi. §1 On sumera hit bið wearm, & on wintra ceald.
    but it was not until 5 centuries later that autumn appeared
    c1374 Chaucer tr. Boethius De Consol. Philos. iv. vii. 144 Autumpne comeþ aȝeyne heuy of apples.
    and another 2 centuries until fall
    1545 R. Ascham Toxophilus i. f. 15, Spring tyme, Somer, faule of the leafe, and winter.
    It is therefore possible that the Saxon genitive 's' did not reach autumn - of Latin/French origin or fall, which was then written as 'fall of the leaf'.

    This fruitless episode leaves the very earliest record belonging to spring, also a Saxon word, but one that cannot be used in "The/A Spring's day.":confused:
     
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