Wall of text vs Wall of the living room


China - Chinese
Howdy folks,

I just want to first say my sincere gratitude to those of you who take the time to help me and others with English. It means a lot.

I have been slowly understanding how to use 'of', and hope you guys can help me with it.

For this sentence "I saw that my friend sent me a wall of text', the 'wall of' is used to convey the amount of text that my friend sent me.

However, for this sentence "The wall of the living room was painted red", the 'wall of' is used to convey where the walls are located or where it belongs to.

How does an English speaker/reader know that 'wall of' is conveyed as a sort of measure word rather than a possessive. Like how does he/she know that 'wall of the living room' in that sentence is possessive, and that 'wall of text' in that sentence is used to describe the amount of text my friend sent me. Is there a rule to distinguish between the two or is it based upon memorization and semantics?

Thanks guys,

  • theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Hi Trainman,

    It's entirely based on context. Some things have walls, and some things don't. "Text" doesn't have walls; neither do, say, "concrete" or "fire." So "a wall of text" or "a wall of concrete" or "a wall of fire" has to be a wall made of those things. Conversely, you can't make a wall out of "the living room" or "the garden" so if you come across "a wall of the living room" or "the wall of the garden," (or "the Great Wall of China") it's obvious that those are possessives.

    Incidentally, "the Great Wall of China" makes a good play on words in English, because one could, conceivably, construct a wall out of "china" (the ceramic).:)
    < Previous | Next >