1 Genitive Case
If we want to say that something belongs to someone, we need to use a so-called genitive
case. Let’s take a look at how to form it and what types of genitive case we distinguish. This is not a complex grammar, so it will certainly be an absolute breeze for you.
How to form the genitive case
1. Something belongs to a person (animate nouns)
If we want to express that something belongs to a person, we simply add an apostrophe + s:
● Peter’s book
● Tom’s car
● Sara’s phone
If the noun in plural ends with an -s (students, parents), we only add an apostrophe:
● Students‘ ball –
● Parents‘ bedroom
2. Something belongs to a thing (inanimate nouns)
On the other hand, if we want to express that something belongs to a thing (or, more precisely, to an inanimate noun), we need to use the preposition OF and we form the phrase in the following order: WHAT belongs to that thing + OF + the THING which it belongs to:
● The name of the book
● The roof of the car
● The colour of the T-shirt
Do not forget the definite article. If we are talking about a known thing or something that has been mentioned in the past, we need to place THE in front of the noun.
The genitive case can be formed in several ways, depending on the type of noun.
2 Double genitive
In some cases, which will be gradually introduced in this subchapter, we use the so-called double genitive. It is called ‘double’ because two types of genitives appear in one phrase: preposition OF + genitive case (apostrophe + s):
● A book of Tom’s
● That idea of Brenda’s
When to use double genitive?
1) The first case can be explained by answering this question: When you hear the following two phrases in English, do you think they mean the same?
● My friend
● A friend of mine
Although at first glance it may seem that the meaning is the same in both phrases, it is not:
● Peter’s friend is a friend with whom Peter has a close relationship. This is the typical genitive case, which was discussed in the previous subchapter.
● A friend of Peter’s is one of Peter’s friends. In this case, we are talking about someone with whom Peter does not have such a close relationship with but puts him in a larger group of friends or acquaintances. This is a double genitive.
2) The second case: We also use the double genitive case with some words for which it is not suitable to use the typical genitive case. These words include, for example, demonstrative and indefinite pronouns:
● That book of Emma’s (demonstrative pronoun)
o You can’t say:: That Emma’s book
● Some relatives of Jane‘s (indefinite pronoun)
o Not: Some Jane’s relatives
3 Other Types of Genitive
We use the group genitive case when we want to say that one thing belongs to more people. In this situation, the genitive case (apostrophe + s) belongs to the last member of the given group.
● My grandmother and my grandfather’s dog (they both own the dog)
● In Adam and William’s house (they both own the house)
Be careful not to confuse it with situations, in which we cannot use the group genitive case:
● My dad’s and my mom’s birthdays are both in January – (each of them has his/her own birthday)
The local genitive case is used quite often in English. If it is clear (out of context or generally), which place you are talking about, you can omit it in the genitive phrase:
● I went to Peter’s (house)
● She was at the dentist’s (office)
In the sentence “I went to Peter’s,” we know from the context that we are talking about his house. In the sentence: “She was at the dentist’s.” we don’t need to mention the dentist’s office – it is a generally known thing.
If the noun ends with the letter S, we add the apostrophe at the end of the word. Do not confuse this rule with the use of the genitive case in the plural we discussed at the beginning of the chapter. Here we talk about the singular nouns:
● Achilles‘ heel
● Socrates‘ philosophy
● Burns‘ poems