1 The Genitive Case
In English if we want to say that something belongs to someone, we need the so-called Genitive case. Let’s take a look at how we form it and what types of Genitive case we can distinguish. This is not complex grammar, so it should be a breeze for you!
How do we form the Genitive case?
1. Something belongs to a person (animate nouns)
If we want to say that something belongs to a person, we simply add an apostrophe + s behind the noun:
● Peter’s book
● Tom’s car
● Sara’s phone
If the plural noun ends with -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 say that something belongs to a thing (or more precisely to an inanimate noun), we need the preposition OF and we form the phrase in the following way:
● The name of the book
● The roof of the car
● The colour of the T-shirt
Do not forget the definite article. If we talk 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, we use the so-called double genitive. 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) We’ll explain the first case by answering this question: When you hear the following two phrases in English, do you think they mean the same thing?
● My friend
● A friend of mine
Although it may seem at first glance that the meaning is the same in both phrases, it is not:
● Peter’s friend would be translated as Peter’s friend. We mean 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 would be translated as one of Peter’s friends. In this case, we are talking about someone with whom Peter does not have such a close relationship but who is part of 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
● 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 than one person. In this case, the Genitive case (apostrophe + s) is used with the last member of the group:
● My grandmother and my grandfather’s dog (they both own the dog)
● In Adam and William’s house (they both own the house)
But… let’s not confuse this with cases where the group Genitive case cannot be used, for example:
● 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 the place you are talking about is clear, out of context or general, you can omit it in the Genitive phrase:
● I went to Peter’s (house) – I went to Peter’s (home)
● She was at the dentist’s (office) – at the dentist’s (facility)
In Czech we form this phrase in a different way, but we also do not say a place directly if it is clear to everyone. 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 at 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 that we discussed at the beginning of this chapter. Here we talk about the singular nouns:
● Achilles‘ heel
● Socrates‘ philosophy
● Burns‘ poems