What's your mother's name? / the name of your mother?

RooRoo

New Member
English
Working as a receptionist, I often hear a coworker ask people "What is the name of your mother?" vs asking "What's your mother's name?

To me, it sounds like the question is too long to get the information she is seeking, and also because I don't often hear questions posed this way.

Is there anything wrong or better in the way to pose this question? It makes sense, but it doesn't sound right.

Her first language is Spanish, so I think she may be using Spanish grammatical structure with English words.
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "What's your mother's name?" (or "What is your mother's name?") is the usual way of phrasing it. English grammar permits the other word order, but we generally find it stilted, unless there's a particular reason to use it.
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Her first language is Spanish, so I think she may be using Spanish grammatical structure with English words.

    She is. ¿Cuál es el nombre de su madre? is the only way to construct it in Spanish (without resorting to other things such as llamarse), since there is no equivalent to the Saxon genitive (plural formed by 's) in Spanish. In English, we only use the "of" construction when it would be confusing or ambiguous to use the Saxon genitive.

    If your coworker's English (the English of your coworker, heheh) is really excellent, then you might point out to her that there is a more natural way to say it, but if her English is less so, then there are probably more important things for her to worry about, since the construction she is using is perfectly understandable to native speakers.
     

    Sofia Soledad Soledad

    Member
    Spanish
    Tengo una duda en cuanto al uso del posesivo en preguntas. Vi escritas estas dos preguntas:
    What's your mother`s name?
    what is the name of your teacher?
    Cual es correcta? Se usa el posesivo o the name of?
    Gracias
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    What's your mother`s name?
    What is the name of your teacher?

    This is difficult, and it comes down to convention rather than grammar or logic.

    What is your mother's name? :tick:
    What is the name of your mother? :cross:
    What is your teacher's name? :tick:
    What is the name of your teacher? :tick:

    I can't explain why one form is used and the other is not with "mother," but both forms sound natural with "teacher."

    Although I marked with a cross above, that form is not grammatically incorrect. It's just that a native speaker would not say it that way.
     

    Richard Dick

    Senior Member
    Español - Mexico
    I can imagine that, "what is the name of your mother?" Or "what is your mother's name?"— is something like.... Your mother's love- Love of your mother; significan diferentes cosas.


    *No sé si me explico. Pero lo que quiero decir es: your mother's love-Love of your mother, son dos cosas distintas.
     
    Last edited:

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Gengo (#6 above) makes an interesting comparison between "mother" and "teacher".
    I think both sound more natural with apostrophe-s.
    On the other hand, apostrophe-s sounds strange with a nonhuman entity:
    "What's the name of that river?":thumbsup:
    "What's that river's name?":confused:
    I speculate: Could it be that a person's name is a more intimate or inalienable possession than that of a nonperson?
    We don't have an explicit rule about this.
     

    Richard Dick

    Senior Member
    Español - Mexico
    The ship's captain/ the captain of the ship Your children's friends/ the friends of your children this fabric's color/ the color of this fabric Shakespeare's plays/ the plays of Shakespeare.

    Apparently, many learners are incorrectly taught that one may not use the Saxon genitive with nouns that name inanimate objects and animals, and that the Saxon genitive must be used with nouns that name people, but this is completely false.

    *Esto lo copié de un nativo americano, en el foro de English only.
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Gengo (#6 above) makes an interesting comparison between "mother" and "teacher".
    I think both sound more natural with apostrophe-s.

    I agree, but do you agree with me that it sounds OK with teacher, but not with mother, to use the longer form? I have no idea why that would be the case, except that a mother is obviously much more personal than a teacher.

    On the other hand, apostrophe-s sounds strange with a nonhuman entity:
    "What's the name of that river?":thumbsup:
    "What's that river's name?":confused:

    That's probably useful as a starting point, but as Richard points out, that rule doesn't always work. We also use the Saxon genitive with animals: What is your bird's name?

    We don't have an explicit rule about this.

    Very true.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Most people have only one mother, though they may have many teachers.

    My assessment:

    What was your teacher in kindergarten's name? [awkward]
    What was the name of your teacher in kindergarten? [better]

    What is your grandmother on your father's side's name? [awkward]
    What is the name of your grandmother on your father's side? [better]

    What is your teacher's name? [straightforward]
    What is the name of your teacher? [slightly awkward]

    What is your mother's name? [straightforward]
    What is the name of your mother? [slightly awkward]
     
    This is difficult, and it comes down to convention rather than grammar or logic.

    What is your mother's name? :tick:
    What is the name of your mother? :cross:
    An example immediately comes to mind reading through this thread. Speaking of a drama and trying to recall the names of the characters (which we always struggle to do during our evening zone-out sessions in front of the tube o_O o_O),
    What is the name of the mother?
    What is the name of the father?
    What is the name of the blond?


    What is the name of your teacher? :tick:
    This is not as obvious to me as my example, but it works way better than what is the name of your mother?, which is downright weird. I think the difference may have something to do with how removed the speaker is from the person whose name is being asked about. The more objectified the person, the more appropriate the question ordered as such: what is the name of__? Just a hypothesis; I may be way off-track
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Too late, I realized that my examples in #8 above merely reinforced the erroneous notion that apostrophe-s is used only with human beings.
    Let me add examples like the following, which sound okay to me:
    "The river's source is located in Minnesota."
    "The river's water contains 700 toxic chemicals."
     

    MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    Pues yo todavía no entiendo qué hay de malo con "What is the name of your mother?" (amén de la evidencia de que, efectivamente, mucho no se usa).
     
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