double genitive case

elshan1980

Senior Member
Azerbaijani
Hi,
We can say
"a friend of mine" which means "one of my friends"
"a friend of my brother's" which means "one of my brother's friends"

can we you "(the) friends of mine" or "(the) friends of my brother's"

Moreover, we can say
both "Dickens' poems" and "Dickens's poems"
and for the whole family name it is uses as "the Brown's car"
what about"the Dickens' car" or"the Dickenses' car"
thanks
 
  • EnglishChecker

    New Member
    English- US
    can we you "(the) friends of mine" or "(the) friends of my brother's"

    You can say: "Some friends of mine are going to the movies" or "A few friends of mine are going out". I would say "Some of my friends..." or "A few of my friends...".

    "Friends of mine" (without 'the') is might be acceptable but should be avoided.

    Brother:
    "Friends of my brother" (no 's)

    Moreover, we can say
    both "Dickens' poems" and "Dickens's poems"
    and for the whole family name it is uses as "the Brown's car"
    what about"the Dickens' car" or"the Dickenses' car"
    I use the rule that when you are talking about possession, if the name ends in 's', you use no 's' to indicate plurality.
    Dickens' poems correct
    the Brown's car incorrect
    the Dickens' car correct
    the Dickenses' car incorrect
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "a friend of my brother's" which means "one of my brother's friends":cross:
    Hi Paul.
    Can you explain this? I've got absolutely no idea why you said it was wrong. :eek:

    A friend of Bill's (whose name is Mike) is coming for dinner.
    One of Bill's friends (whose name is Mike) is coming for dinner.

    They're the same thing (at least for me).
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "a friend of my brother's" which means "one of my brother's friends":cross:

    1 A friend of Bill's (whose name is Mike) is coming for dinner.
    2 One of Bill's friends (whose name is Mike) is coming for dinner.


    I see #1 as “Mike, a friend of Bill’s, [ of Bill’s what?] (whose name is Mike) is coming to dinner.”

    It could be argued that it is, “a friend of Bill’s circle of friends” but that itself would be better as “from amongst his circle of friends.” Or it indicates a lesser relationship – i.e. a friend of a friend.

    I would say,

    “Mike, a friend of Bill, is coming to dinner.” or, "Mike, Bill's friend, is coming to dinner.”

    2 One of Bill's friends (whose name is Mike) is coming for dinner. I agree, nothing wrong.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Yeah, but that's not how it works in English. There doesn't need to be an object after it, neither does it have to be "Bill".

    It might make more 'logical' sense that way, but that's not how the rule actually exists in English, and by rule I mean standardly accepted.
    What you have said you prefer is also absolutely 100% fine, I've got no problems with the acceptability of what you agree with, just with what you regard as unacceptable (because a day out with a bunch of English speakers is enough to convince anyone that this is how people talk).

    You don't say:

    A friend of me is coming to dinner:cross:
    A friend of I is coming to dinner:cross:


    But rather:

    A friend of mine is coming to dinner:tick:
    Jane is a friend of hers.:tick:
    That's Mary there, she's a friend of theirs:tick:

    The man standing over there is a friend of my cousin's.:tick:

    You've still got the of and the possessive that follows.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Interesting. I don't for a moment say that "a friend of my brother's" is not heard.

    I can't deny that A friend of mine is coming to dinner:tick:
    But you will agree that in
    The man standing over there is a friend of my cousin's.:tick: the genitive 's' does not seem necessary.

    So back to
    A friend of mine is coming to dinner:tick:
    is anything lost by
    "A friend of mine is coming to dinner"?
    (i) I can't see that it is and, (ii) as it is merely emphatic, is it not really saying,
    "A friend of minemyself is coming to dinner"?

    However, as we agree A friend of mine is common enough.

    Does this work for you?
    "A friend of my brother's wife's works there." It doesn't for me and I would mark it wrong.

    Is it an anomaly in the treatment of nouns and pronouns?
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    But you will agree that in
    The man standing over there is a friend of my cousin's.:tick: the genitive 's' does not seem necessary.
    I would like to refrain from commenting on this because 'necessary' doesn't have anything to do with how English works (and I believe my answer might give of the impression that it could be seen as not a good use of English, which is something I'd strictly disagree with).
    So back to
    A friend of mine is coming to dinner:tick:
    is anything lost by
    "A friend of mine is coming to dinner"?
    (i) I can't see that it is and, (ii) as it is merely emphatic, is it not really saying,
    "A friend of minemyself is coming to dinner"?
    Nope, nothing is lost by just saying "a friend", but that also doesn't really have anything to do with the acceptability of the other variant. It's like our optional "He isn't going to" and "He's not going to", where negation contracts is (at the moment of speaking) a perfectly variable alternative that unusually (as some linguists have pointed out) not seen to have any stigma associated to each option, which usually develops when a seemingly optional system comes into being. Anyway, you can say "A friend is coming" or "My friend is coming..." these are all optional, but I don't see any reason why "A friend of Bill's/mine/yours" should be avoided for any reason at all.

    I don't view it as emphatic. It'd be interesting if others did. I mean, obviously it's adding more information, but that's not necessarily giving emphasis, like pointing at your own chest when you're saying it or something like that.

    Does this work for you?
    "A friend of my brother's wife's works there." It doesn't for me and I would mark it wrong.
    I'm not actually sure. At first I read it and agreed with you, but then I said it out loud and immediately jumped back to on the fence.
    Secondary genitives a bit unusual in normal speech anyway, so that could have something to do with it. No, no, I think I'd consider it a bit weird though. Actually... I honestly don't know my opinion on it. There could just be a restriction on it happening with "of" and one noun in the genitive. I'll see what I can find out on the origin of this usage.

    I'm usually at odds with a lot of what "Grammar Girl" (see) has to say, due to my "liberal anarchist" views on correct language usage, but even she agrees that it's a valid construction, which means it's a lot more accepted and standardised than even I thought. She points out one of the conditions for a valid double possessive is that the object (or 'owned' thing) needs to be definite and human (which is what Fowler says in his grammar of English). Then it is pointed out about the pronoun system where double possessives are mandatory.
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Would you allow me to adjust
    The man standing over there is a friend of my cousin
    's.:tick: the genitive 's' does not seem necessary, by adding, to complete a meaning?
    to which you replied,
    I would like to refrain from commenting on this because 'necessary'.

    I think we are then in agreement.

    From your interesting link, three quotes:
    Many purists believe that double possessives should be relegated to informal and semi-formal writing,
    "relegated" carries baggage, I would prefer "used" and end the quote at that stage.

    Second:
    Here’s a clear-cut rule that helps explain this: When you’re talking about inanimate objects—objects that aren’t alive, such as “the United Kingdom”—you can’t use a double possessive (2). According to The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, for a double possessive to be legal, the object of the preposition “of” has to be “definite and human.” In other words, it’s fine to say, “a friend of my uncle’s” but not “a friend of the museum’s.” You have to say, “a friend of the museum.”
    Do you see this as dangerously close to "inanimate objects don't take the genitive 's'"? If so, one of them is probably wrong, or both are and, all in all, I think that if there is a rule, then it has not as yet been fully enunciated. (There's an honour for someone here :))

    Finally,
    That question of Cathy’s was pretty tricky. Or, rather, I might prefer to say, “Cathy’s question was pretty tricky.” The double possessive does have legitimate uses, but you might want to avoid the redundant possessive in formal writing [my emphasis] and perhaps use only one possessive at a time if it sounds natural
    which expresses my position.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    My stance when validating English is nearly almost with the main scope of spoken English and not written English.
    So I can understand your concern in formal writing, but for me, the idea of whether it was acceptable in formal writing never even crossed my mind, as that's a sort of field of its own, and I don't believe it should be anywhere near to being the first consideration when talking about "The English Language", unless explicitly stated by the poster. That might explain our differences in opinion, but even then, double-possessives have been used apparently for a long time. Shakespeare's double possessives were a lot more loose than ours. Over time we've narrowed the conditions for when it can be used to animate beings while Shakespeare used it with inanimate objects as well.

    As Merriam-Webster points out, it's completely idiomatic and has been traced back to even pre-Chaucer. It was one of those items that the 18th century grammarians decided to "not like" which then led to the construction being seen as somehow wrong, and ultimately leading to your opinion now, I guess. All the things they decided to attack passed into the school systems and "learned" books and a complete stigma from nowhere was thrown upon them. As always though, people carried on using the language like they always had done, going along with linguistic change as always happens. Luckily we're back to a bit of sense and I agree with MW that:
    The double genitive is a perfectly acceptable, perfectly normal form in Modern English.
    (page 364, MW's Dictionary of English Usage, 1994).
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I use the rule that when you are talking about possession, if the name ends in 's', you use no 's' to indicate plurality.
    Dickens' poems correct
    the Brown's car incorrect
    the Dickens' car correct
    the Dickenses' car incorrect
    No, that is wrong.

    Some people like to omit the following s after the apostrophe for a singular that ends in s, but there are those who would argue that it is wrong to do so, especially if one pronounces the second "s". It is certainly not incorrect to write the second s; it is entirely correct to write "Charles Dickens's novels", or "St James's Palace in London" (which, by the way, is the only correct spelling of the place), and anyone who says that to do so is "incorrect" is badly mistaken.

    Plurals are generally formed by adding an "s" to the end of a word that ends with another letter, and "-es" to words that end in s; their possessives are generally formed by adding an apostrophe alone. If Joe Brown has a car, it is Joe Brown's car. If Joe Brown has a wife who is Sally Brown, and children who are Tom Brown and Betty Brown, then you can refer to all of them in the plural as "the Browns", and their car is "the Browns' car." However, if their last name were Jones instead of Brown, then you could speak of Joe Jones's car, the whole family would be the Joneses (as in "keeping up with the Joneses"), and the family vehicle would be the Joneses' car. It is an error to call a form such as "the Joneses' car" incorrect; it is instead entirely correct.

    Getting back to your question, elshan, the Brown family are the Browns, and so their vehicle is the Browns' car. In the same way, I would say that Mr. Dickens and Mrs. Dickens considered together are the Dickenses, and their vehicle is indeed the Dickenses' car.
     
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    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    The legitimacy of the double genitive fades with complexity:
    a friend of mine (mandatory)
    a friend of Bill's (normal)
    a friend of my uncle's (more common than not)
    a friend of my wife's brother's (doubtful)
    a friend of his holiness the archbishop's (ugly if not wrong)
    Moreover, it cannot be used with inanimate object. e.g.:
    a ray of the sun's (wrong)

    But that is a limitation of possessive "'s" in its normal use (though to a different degree): we can't use it when the term for the possessor becomes too complex, and we are less likely to use it for inanimate objects.

    I think that the double genitive is more than vestigial: it has actually been put to good use, and slowly refashioned into a distinction in meaning or nuance.

    This is obvious for something like:
    a photo of a friend (usually taken as something which depicts a friend)
    a photo of a friend's (something which a friend owns)

    ... but I think that it also applies to:
    a friend of my uncle (nuance: one who befriends my uncle)
    a friend of my uncle's (nuance: one who my uncle befriends)

    That becomes clearer where the symmetry of friendship is less obvious:
    a friend of the Lord (one who cherishes the Lord)
    a friend of the Lord's (one whom the Lord cherishes)
    ... to borrow an example from an earlier thread.
     
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