Possessive - <minutes, minutes'> drive/ walk/ journey

Discussion in 'English Only' started by mimi2, Mar 25, 2006.

  1. mimi2 Senior Member

    vietnam vietnamese
    Can it be used possessive case in this case"?
    The temple is only a few minutes' drive from the station.
  2. Tresley

    Tresley Senior Member

    Yorkshire / United Kingdom
    British English
    Oh Mimi - you are testing the native English speakers today!
    Yes, your sentence is grammatically correct because it's a drive of only a few minutes. You could avoid the apostrophe by saying "By car, the temple is only a few minutes away from the station".
  3. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    Mimi's choice appears 100% logical to me, and I would defend it grammatically and logically. But I believe it is usually written this way:

    "a few minutes drive"

    It is a shame that Google ignores certain characters. If you do a search for "a few minutes' drive", you will also get results for "a few minutes drive". You might wish to check for yourself which looks better. As we all know, the fact that something is more common in a Google search does not make it right. :)

  4. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    I believe that "a few minutes' drive" should include the apostrophe.

    Edited to add: from what I've just read, it is an example of the genitive form. This works like the possessive, because the phrase may be written "a drive of a few minutes" but those few minutes don't actually "possess" the drive.
  5. rsweet

    rsweet Senior Member

    English, North America
    I agree with Kelly B. It's the same as "a day's work."
  6. jimreilly

    jimreilly Senior Member

    American English
    Is it, really? Perhaps that's a different question....

    I don't like the apostrophe. The phrase a "few minutes drive" is somewhat casual in tone, and even if the apostrophe could be justified by rules and/or an appeal to the genitive, it seems unnecessary.

    Strange to say, because we are talking about a written form, but the apostrophe seems wrong to my ear, which would not know if the apostrophe was there or not! And I imagine that's because the phrase is usually spoken, or, if written, the writing is supposed to seem as casual as ordinary speech.
  7. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    Logically "a day's work" and "a few minutes' drive" are correct, so I don't think anyone could argue with either one.

    However, it is always interesting to note that usage in English often defies rules, so before deciding what is "correct" and "incorrect" it helps to analyze (take careful note) of how such phrases are written by writers who(m) you admire.

    "A few minutes drive", with no possessive mark, is obviously much more common. However, "for my wife and I" is about twice as common as "for my wife and me", and in this case I think almost all people would immediately agree that "for my wife and I" is simply wrong. :)

  8. Jiung Member

    Taipei, Taiwan
    Chinese, Taiwan

    I read a sentence:

    "I like the neighbourhood. It's very quiet, and only about fifteen minutes' walk to school."

    Does it really need a apostrophe after minutes?

  9. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Yes, apostrophe required.
    It is a ten-minute walk.
    It is ten minutes' walk.
    Check this link.
  10. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    I do enjoy the opportunity to argue with the mighty Panj:) on matters gramatical.

    In the above sentence the ten minutes reference is a descriptive.
    The walk is being described as being of ten minutes duration.
    I don't think that a descriptive can be a possessive.

  11. Giordano Bruno

    Giordano Bruno Senior Member

    English, England
    How dare you challenge the great Panj. He's right. The great Panj is always right. the descriptive form is, "a ten minute walk"

    It is the same with "three day's march" and "a week's supply of food." What is the "s" doing on the end of the word "week" if it is not indicating the possessive case.

    I look forward to a long debate on this subject.
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I am adding this thread to the previous thread on the same topic.
    And please note that the views I expressed are drawn from these sources.

    In this particular construction, the ten minutes takes on a possessive form.
    It is a ten-minute walk to the river.
    It is ten minutes' walk to the river.
    It's all in a day's work.
  13. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I just saw a recent thread, closed due to similarity with this one, that asked which of these is correct:

    "a 10-hour trip v. 10 hours' trip
    a 10-day vacation v. 10 days' vacation
    eight-hour sleep v. eight hours' sleep
    a one-hour pay v. an hour's pay"

    Most of the answer is already here, but I would like to add a little to it and invite discussion as appropriate. As I see it:

    "A 10-hour trip" is fine. The article a modifies "10-hour trip", a count-noun phrase. "10 hours' trip" sounds odd because trip is a count noun.

    "A 10-day vacation" is fine, and so is "10 days' vacation", because vacation can be either count or noncount.

    "Eight hours' sleep" is fine, but "eight-hour sleep" requires a determiner such as an: "an eight-hour sleep". Sleep can also be either count or noncount.

    "A one-hour pay" sounds odd to me, but "an hour's pay" is fine because pay is noncount and an = "one" modifies hour, not pay.

    Similarly, "a few hours' pay" is valid too because "a few" modifies hours, not pay. And "a few weeks' wages" is also valid.
  14. Tedmiester New Member

    Northeastern US English
    A note on the origin of this.

    A ten minutes' walk appears thus because it is, grammatically, the genitive case. In Old English, this was most often indicated by an -s ending. Since you can say, a walk of ten minutes, there is no case indication, but the "possessiveness" is an older morphological remnant.
  15. breezeofwater

    breezeofwater Senior Member

    Living in Paris
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Just another little question if you don't mind! ^_^
    Does it mean that the article -a drops the plural (minutes)? Is it wrong to say "a ten minute's walk"?
    Many thanks. :)

    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2012
  16. bluegiraffe

    bluegiraffe Senior Member

    Nottingham, England
    English - England

    Yes it is.
  17. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Note that the plural ending -s applies to one noun only. For example, the plural form of "secretary of state" is "secretaries of state".

    However, the "possessive" -'s or -' governs an entire noun phrase, as if it were a postposition:

    The Secretary of State's car = The car of the Secretary of State.
    I saw you-know-who's son today
    = I saw the son of you-know-who today.
    Ten minutes' walk = A walk of ten minutes.

    A phrase used as an attribute in front of a noun usually does not show number, even if the same phrase after the noun does:

    A ten-minute walk = A ten-minute-long walk = A walk ten minutes long = A walk ten minutes in length.

    Such a phrase requires hyphens if it contains an adjective followed by a noun. Both the hyphen(s) and the lack of plurality help to indicate the extent of the attributive phrase.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2010
  18. breezeofwater

    breezeofwater Senior Member

    Living in Paris
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Thank you so much you both blueg. and forero!
    Your remarks were extremely helpful. :)

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