EN: of / 's (genitive) / adjective - how to translate the possessive "de"


In sports I've noticed that most of the times the apostrophe is omitted. Is It because there's no need for one because it's not a genitive form (a noun used as an adjective)?

the Champions League
The Lakers team
Arsenal players
  • clairet

    Senior Member
    England & English (UK version)
    I think the conclusion from the previous discussion in this thread is that it is more useful to think of such phrases in terms of nouns modifying nouns than in terms of nouns used as adjectives. There is nothing particular about sports in this respect. See Timpeac's and lucas-sp's posts for a general explanation.


    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    The only reason that "sports" come up is because many team names are plurals (Lakers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, Bulls, Mets...). So you'll commonly see "the Lakers/Bears/Niners/Steelers/Bulls/Mets defense" or whatever.


    New Member
    French (from france)
    Hey, i am currently studying old and modern english at my university and sometimes it looks as though i am writing things by heart and this is my problem, i would like to understand why, so as for me referring to the title i have troubles expressing "the ownership"

    1 st example : "harry's bag" = "the bag that belongs to Harry" BUT could i say "the bag of Harry" ?
    2 nd example: "harry's reaction" and "The reaction of Harry"

    in the second example the reaction belongs to Harry since it is his reaction and so does the first example, the bag belongs to harry so i hope you could find out about what is my problem.

    May you guys help me to find a way to figure them out so as not to make mistakes further in time ? (I thank you in advance).

    Have a nice day, Thanks for reading :)
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    Senior Member
    English Atlanta, GA USA

    In both cases, it should be the 's possessive: Harry's bag and Harry's reaction. In general, when the owner is a human, many but not all animals, a country, an orgranization made up o people, we tend to use this form to show possession. You could say The reaction of Harry, but I think it would depend on the context and sentence structure. I think you might find this explanation (en français) quite helpful. This link also provides other useful examples.


    New Member
    French (from france)
    Thank you @djweaverbeaver because i was watching the TV news about usain bolt's 200M victory and the speaker clearly said "Oh my god no...usain failed, the reaction of bolt was amazing etc..." i do think that i clearly heard it that's why that pissed me off cause i could not understand why he said that which made me create an account here in order to ask native speakers, plus

    QUESTION 1: my teacher wants me to avoid using apostrophes within my essays (formal) so how could i avoid them in order to express the ownership ?is there any other way than using the verb "to belong" ?

    QUESTION 2: i looked at the link that you gave me but guess what i may be a dumb but i don't get it well, maybe you could gelp once again, what's the difference example between

    1: The reputation of Madonna is amazing
    2: Madonna's reputation is amazing.

    1: the man's arm
    2: the arm of the man

    Thank you in advance :)
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    Senior Member
    English Atlanta, GA USA
    Hi again @Savi77186 ,

    Just reading "the reaction of Bolt" doesn't sound very natural to me. I would've said "Bolt's reaction...", but then again, I'd have to hear it for myself to know if this use makes sense. On the page it doesn't look like something a native speaker would say.

    I'm not quite why your teacher wants you to avoid apostrophes in essays. The s form of the possessive case has nothing to do with formality. Furthermore, there might be situations where not using it would produce something that's not grammatically correct, as in some of the examples towards the bottom of the second link I posted. The only apostrophe that would not use in formal writing is the one found in contraction: can't, shouldn't, I'm, gov't etc. In formal writing, you should always spell out these contractions: cannot, should not, I am, government, etc.

    As to your last question, there is no difference between "The reputation of Madonna" and "Madonna's reputation" in your two sentences; they are equally correct. However, adding other elements to the sentence could make one formulation possible and another not. Consider the sentence given in that first link:
    The reputation of Madonna, the American singer, is amazing.
    In this sentence, the American singer is an appositive, or it stands in apposition to Madonna. (Apposition is when two noun phrases, here Madonna and the American singer, are next to each other in a clause and refer to the same person or thing. Check this link for more on this.) This apposition explains why the of possessive form is correct whereas the s possessive form is not. With the s form, the apposition is impossible because reputation and the American singer do not refer to the same thing:
    Madonna's reputation, the American singer, is amazing. :cross:
    (reputation the American singer, no apposition).
    I hope this helps you to understand that particular example.


    French - France
    Hi, sorry to update such an old thread but I have read all the posts and still cannot seem to find the answer I need! From what I understood this "'s or of" thing is more of a "does it sound okay" thing and does not have detailed rules, so I absolutely do not know what to choose in my case (and am even more confused than before to be honest)...
    Would you (natives) say "the creation of the museum" or "the museum's creation" ?
    Thank you!

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    If you want a "rule", Nattie, here's a very simple one for you.

    Use 's (or s' in the plural) for:
    • People: John's book... My father's car... The Queen's coronation... The thieves' plot...
    • Times: Three weeks' holiday... A day's leave... Tomorrow's weather... Last year's fashions...
    For all other circumstances, use "of".

    Is this the whole answer? No. Is it incorrect? No. Will you go far wrong if you follow it? No.


    Senior Member
    England & English (UK version)
    Would you (natives) say "the creation of the museum" or "the museum's creation" ?

    Hi. One thing I don't see in this thread (but I haven't checked out the links) is mention of the role of intended emphasis in choosing which form to use. For your museum example I can't think of two examples which give "creation" and "museum" obviously different emphases, so I'm not surprised that my first (and last) reaction to the question was that both your phrases are fine and mean the same, e.g. "the creation of the museum was controversial" and "the museum's creation was controversial". But a slightly earlier post gave the example of a sports commentator saying "the reaction of (Usain) Bolt" and a number of posts thought this was wrong. In context, where the sports commentator clearly wanted to give special emphasis to the reaction which Bolt had, the usage seems perfectly reasonable to me (and the more usual "Bolt's reaction" would have been a bit boring - unless the commentator gave strong spoken emphasis to the word "reaction", but then it would have sounded a bit weird). I think some of the counter-examples to basic "rules" (I prefer "practices" since rules change all the time) may come from this performance aspect. All of which is not to say there aren't some choices which it's currently impossible to regard as anything but weird to a native speaker. So "the bag of Harry" (from way earlier in the thread) would indicate you are not a native English speaker (who, if wanting to emphasise the bag, would say "the bag belonging to Harry" - note that you cannot say "the reaction belonging to Bolt").
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    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm a native speaker and I might use both "the creation of the museum" and "the museum's creation", depending on the context and the purpose of the text. Are you writing or speaking? is it a formal text for publication, or just a chat with a friend via email or text messaging? In general, "the museum's creation" is probably the most often used, and is less formal than "creation of the museum." Likewise, in general terms, the "X of Y" construction tends to be more formal, and more commonly used in written texts. For example the King of Spain sounds quite formal, whereas Spain's King is more conversational and informal.

    Here's a link to a published text that uses the formal style: "creation of the museum":

    ethnographic conservation newsletter - ICOM-CC
    "...creation of the museum was beset by difficulties ..."

    Kelly B

    USA English
    What is the surrounding sentence, please, @Nattie? I agree with Keith Bradford's general suggestion, but sometimes there are contextual considerations to be taken into account as well.


    Senior Member

    In a website I have found :

    Do not form the possessive of an inanimate object; use an adjective or an "of" phrase.
    • The desk drawer is stuck. OR The drawer of the desk is stuck
    So it means that here desk is an adjective and drawer a noun? Like "blue car". So I can't say "the desks drawer is stuck" because an adjective is invariable ?
    To say that I should say " the drawer of the desks is stuck " ?

    Thank you !
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    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    En anglais, on emploie essentiellement le possessif ('s, noter l'apostrophe au singulier) pour des personnes et non des choses comme un bureau, parce que les objets ne peuvent rien « posséder ». On ne dit donc pas the desk's drawer, mais on emploie un nom en tant qu'adjectif (ici, desk) : the desk drawer = the drawer of the desk.


    Senior Member
    Français (Québec)
    My understanding :

    The desk drawer : Le tiroir de commode.

    There is a desk drawer in that pile of junk.

    The desk's drawer / The drawer of the desk : Le tiroir de la commode.

    The desk's drawer is full.
    The drawer of the desk at the left of my bed is full.

    The desk drawers : Les tiroirs de commode.

    The desk drawers are stacked inside the shop.

    The desks' drawers / The drawers of the desks : Les tiroirs des commodes.

    The desks' drawers are varnished.
    The drawers of the desks we bought last week were missing. They will ship them tomorrow.

    The desks drawers : :cross:
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