possessive case nouns

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MaximuS.111

Senior Member
russian
Hello! :)
I'm trying to understand possessives here. There is a given sentence: give me a shilling's worth of stamps
If I have grasped the idea of possessives right, then:
1) shilling - noun that becomes possessive noun for
2) worth - noun
->
shilling's worth = the worth of a shilling which in turn becomes possessive for
3) stamps - plural noun
So, is it like possessive noun (shilling's) inlaid into another possessive noun (shilling's worth of)?
Essentially, what the phrase means is give me an amount of stamps that together account for the amount of one shilling. Am I right?

Thanks in advance!
 
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I think that's correct. You can also use it in relation to weight or length:
    • a pound's weight of silver
    • a foot's length of land
     
    The construction a [quantity of money's] worth of [something] is very common in English. As you correctly understood, it means an amount of [something] equal in value to a [quantity of money].

    I bought a dollar's worth of gumdrops at the candy store = At the candy store, I bought as many gumdrops as could be purchased for one dollar.
    John does not have even a nickel's worth of common sense = John's common sense is not worth even five cents (a "nickel"); John has very little common sense.
     
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    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    natkretep, GreenWhiteBluethanks for your help!
    There is another thing that boggles my mind.
    There is a general rule that if one wants to indicate possession one should add 's to the preceding noun, right? But, there are many examples that demonstrate that this rule doesn't always hold true, e.g.: a kitchen table, a school bag. These may not be the best examples, because they serve as description rather than indicate possession. And yet, when am I allowed not to add 's to the preceding noun?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Maximus, the general pattern is that the kind of possessive you mentioned is usually found in relation to an amount. In addition to money, weight or length, you can use it in relation to time (a week's holiday, an hour's wait).

    We tend not to use it (as much) in relation to physical objects, particularly inanimate objects. But the rule is not cut and dried. Have a look at these threads:

    door key / door's key / key of the door
    Possessive - using 's with inanimate nouns
    Possessive - using 's with inanimate nouns.
    Possessive - guidance on when it is OK to use 's with inanimate nouns?
     

    brampton

    Member
    English - English RP
    • a pound's weight of silver
    • a foot's length of land
    I'm willing to defer to others, but I think not. A pound of silver. (cf. Shylock's pound of flesh) A foot of land. (cf. WW1 battles, slaughtering thousands for a yard of mud)
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    • a pound's weight of silver
    • a foot's length of land
    I thought these examples interesting, because they seem slightly tautological. We would often say a pound of silver and a foot of cloth. The words weight and length seem to me to be already indicated in the unit. Yet shillings are obviously a unit of money's worth, but we never say a a shilling of stamps!
     

    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    thanks... my question was more to do with NOT using 's where it should be, though I can't come up with pertinent examples now.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Brampton, I think those constructions are possible for emphasis. Of course we can say a pound of silver and a foot of land. Quick examples:

    The pund meant a pound's weight of silver. (Thomas Hodgkin, The history of England​)
    Coins were made from gold, and the weight of a coin was the equivalent of a pound's weight of silver (http://www.spearhead.com/0409-ewc.html)
    Make sure you take a pair of scissors used to cut flowers and cut about a foot's length of the stem from the flower (http://www.wikihow.com/Save-Money-on-Mother's-Day-Flowers)
     

    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    Brrrr... Something that should be SO simple is SO difficult :)
    I've read all the links provided by natkretep. For myself I distinguish the use of possessives: showing possessiveness and description.
    If we talk about possessiveness, then 's is preferred to be used with animate nouns, and of-phrase with inanimate. HOWEVER, 's may be used with inanimate nouns and is not likely to cause confusion.
    If we talk about description, then no 's or of-phrase needed. For instance: "We need to buy a kitchen table" - it merely says that we need a table to place in kitchen, not the table to place in hallway. I think that precisely what mplsray said here about difference between 'the door's handle' and 'a door handle'. In the second instance the word 'door' while being a noun is close to serve as an adjective, if I can like that. I now understand what MonKENy was saying in his post #6.

    So, here goes the recap.
    There was the phrase here: The hinge of the door but the door's hinge. We can say like that if we refer to any specific door.
    And as we can have hinges for doors, windows and many other things, according to my rationale outlined above, I would say 'a door hinge' without 's or of-phrase if no reference implied.
    Any comments? :)
     

    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    thanks MonKENy!
    well, I'm now reviewing grammar once again and seeing this:
    an hour’s trip
    a year’s absence
    today’s lesson
    a mile’s distance
    a dollar’s worth
    it's all general and as I understand I can put it without apostrophe:
    an hour trip -as in It's an hour trip so don't be nervous or It's five hours journey and you going to like it.
    a year absence - And your year absence doesn't make any better or Five years absence has greatly effected him.
    but with today's class it's different, right? We can't say I'm inviting your for the today class?
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Today's lesson is correct but doesn't belong with those - the others all measure an amount. How long was the trip? An hour. But today's lesson is a lesson that happens today, not a lesson that occupies all of today. And no, you can't say :cross:a/the today lesson.
     

    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    entagledbank, really appreciate your help!
    I got your point. Now, I ask for your advice.
    Is it worth mentioning to my students that, for example, if a trip lasts for an hour, they can say EITHER an hour's trip or an hour trip.
    Maybe I could say that
    1) Although two options (an hour's trip or an hour trip) are possible, the second one is preferable?
    2) As usage of of-phrase is recommended to be used with inanimate nouns, it's better to say population of Russia than Russia's population/Russia population?
    What do you think?

    And one more thing. A girls’ school is used with apostrophe, whereas a kitchen table without. I can't seem to grasp the difference!!!!!! None of them expresses possessiveness, but description or definition. So why are they spelled differently?
     
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    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Let's just stick to the amounts. There is no easy answer to when to use N1 N2, or N1's N2, or N2 of N1, when you're combining two nouns. My big grammar book at home lists about 26 different reasons to use N2 of N1, and 17 to use N1's N2. Often more than one is possible. So let's keep to the question of shilling's worths and hour's trips and so on.

    You can say either an hour's trip or a one-hour trip. The numeral is required in the second form. The measure word remains singular in the second form: a two hours' trip or a two-hour trip. Likewise a ten-metre path, and so on. ('Worth' is an adjective, not a measure noun, in these expressions, so its grammar is different.*)

    * So I shouldn't have written shilling's worths, should I? No, I shouldn't. 'Worth' can combine to form a noun: a shillingsworth, a pennyworth, two pennyworths. But I think this is only done with traditional British currency words, so don't try it with a dollarworth or a hryvniaworth.
     

    Phil-Olly

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    And one more thing. A girls’ school is used with apostrophe, whereas a kitchen table without. I can't seem to grasp the difference!!!!!! None of them expresses possessiveness, but description or definition. So why are they spelled differently?
    This is one of those occasions when, if someone points it out to you, you think - yes! Why is it like that?

    Could it be that A girl's school could be described as "a school for girls", where "for" substitutes for the normal possessive "of"?
    So that we then have:

    An old people's home
    A child's cardigan
    A boy's bike
    etc.

    Whereas in "a kitchen table", the word kitchen is a noun used as an adjective.

    Also worth noting that all the "possessive" examples relate to human beings, which is maybe why we say "a dog kennel" rather than "a dog's kennel"
    There again, we would say "the dog's kennel" when speaking about a particular dog and its kennel.

    Just thinking aloud, really!
     

    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    Hey, Phil-Olly, thanks for bringing that topic up again!
    Whereas in "a kitchen table", the word kitchen is a noun used as an adjective.
    That's exactly what I discovered myself today :). Perhaps, this could be deemed as a good explanation. And yet, this logic wouldn't apply to plural nouns, right? Maybe that's the very reason why an apostrophe is added to 'girls' in the phrase 'a girls' school'?
     

    JJC12345

    New Member
    India-Hindi, Malayalam
    Brrrr... Something that should be SO simple is SO difficult :)
    I've read all the links provided by natkretep. For myself I distinguish the use of possessives: showing possessiveness and description.
    If we talk about possessiveness, then 's is preferred to be used with animate nouns, and of-phrase with inanimate. HOWEVER, 's may be used with inanimate nouns and is not likely to cause confusion.
    If we talk about description, then no 's or of-phrase needed. For instance: "We need to buy a kitchen table" - it merely says that we need a table to place in kitchen, not the table to place in hallway. I think that precisely what mplsray said here about difference between 'the door's handle' and 'a door handle'. In the second instance the word 'door' while being a noun is close to serve as an adjective, if I can like that. I now understand what MonKENy was saying in his post #6.

    So, here goes the recap.
    There was the phrase here: The hinge of the door but the door's hinge. We can say like that if we refer to any specific door.
    And as we can have hinges for doors, windows and many other things, according to my rationale outlined above, I would say 'a door hinge' without 's or of-phrase if no reference implied.
    Any comments? :)
    So do you think that a pound's weight of silver is correct?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    So do you think that a pound's weight of silver is correct?
    It is correct, but it isn't necessary. You can say "a pound of silver" instead. If you are concerned that the person might confuse a pound in weight with a pound as a unit of currency, then you would be justified in saying "a pound's weight of silver", but I think the distinction is really only needed the other way round, where you need to say "a pound's worth of silver".
     
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