France's GDP is greater than Greece's.

PatrickK1

Senior Member
USA English
Is it perfectly grammatical and stylistically acceptable to use an apostrophe without attaching the object of ownership? I'm almost positive that it's correct (although, stylistically, perhaps it would be better to say "than that of Greece", in this instance), but I need to prove it someone. Also, does anyone know what the grammatical term for this would be; ideally I'd like to prove it using a reputable grammar book.

Some other examples:
"John's hair is shorter than Bill's."
"Postal workers' salaries are greater than city clerks'."
 
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    • "France's GDP is greater than Greece's" is fine as written. So is "John's hair is shorter than Bill's." But I personally disapprove of "Postal workers' salaries are greater than city clerks'." I would insert "those of."
     

    PatrickK1

    Senior Member
    USA English
    • "France's GDP is greater than Greece's" is fine as written. So is "John's hair is shorter than Bill's." But I personally disapprove of "Postal workers' salaries are greater than city clerks'." I would insert "those of."

    Thanks, what's the rationale there?
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    The use of the genitive in the case of Greece's GDP / Bill's hair is logical, because the GDP is solely that of Greece, and the same can be said of Bill's hair. Now, the salaries of city clerks are the ones they get, but the relation between city clerks and salaries cannot really be considered as solely belonging to city clerks. I'd say the reason is linked to the fact that city clerks is too wide, and it can comprise very different people and salaries.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    For me the reason is that we can't hear the apostrophe in "clerks'" in speech, so it sounds as if we are comparing postal workers' salaries with city clerks, rather than with city clerks' salaries.
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    Euphony is indeed a good reason for not saying city clerks. But would you, in another context, say city clerks' salaries? This is what I had in mind when posting my answer above, and I considered that postal workers seems narrower than city clerks.
    Thanks for shedding light on this.
     

    PatrickK1

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Moon Palace: Yes, "city clerks' salaries" is fine. (By the way, that was just a random sentence I threw together, so don't read into it too much. City clerks are city officials; I'm fairly certain they make much more than postal workers.)

    Sound Shift: Thanks. Is that a grammatical rule, or a stylistic/personal preference? Now that you've pointed it out, I'd say I prefer "those of city clerks" as well, but I'm curious about the grammar here.
     
    Last edited:

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Sound Shift: Thanks. Is that a grammatical rule, or a stylistic/personal preference? Now that you've pointed it out, I'd say I prefer "those of city clerks" as well, but I'm curious about the grammar here.
    It's not a rule; it's just a device to make sure that the comparison doesn't sound bizarre in speech, as I explained at post 6 - but it was cyberpedant who first suggested the insertion of "those of", and his reasons may be different.
     
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