The use of the apostrophe with nouns to show ownership (Saxon Genitive?)
has always puzzled me. I haven't been
able to find a convincing rule in any of the grammar or usage books
where I've checked. Some advise you to avoid using it with things,
ideas or animals, whereas some others accept this use.
found the following examples which don't sound right to my non-native
The plant's roots
The library's entire store
The aeroplane's fuel tank
The safes' contents
The book's cover
The atlas's index
The double bass's case
The robin's nest
Last season's fashion
I'd also like to know what usage is more common with people's names
ending in 's'.
'Charles' briefcase' or 'Charles's briefcase'?
'Mr Evans' daughter' or 'Mr Evans's daughter'?
Do you pronounce both of them in the same way?
concerns me most, however, is whether there is a rule which will
allow me to generate my own grammatical utterances.
is a very difficult area to advise on, Arrosane, as it usually boils
down to what sounds right is right. All the examples of possessives
that you quote are quite plausible and sound quite natural. But
I would also agree with the advice 'when in doubt, use the of
In general there is some preference for the possessive pattern when
a person, rather than a thing, is being described. Thus, we would
uncle's return was delayed.'
'The contents of the drawer were
strewn all over the floor.'
person might be extended to include animals or groups of human
beings, so we would have:
the donkey's tail
the audience's reaction
the government's majority
The possessive form is also usual whenthe relationship of possession is described, so we would say:
'My grandmother's furniture was mostly Victorian.'
people's names end in 's', you can either add ' or 's
(Charles' or Charles's) and choose pronunciation accordingly,
either /iz/ or /isiz/. You might sometimes need to choose the latter
to make the meaning clear.
For example, if you speak the sentence:
'My house is older than Mrs Evans''
with just /iz/ at the end, you may be saying that your house
is older than Mrs Evans herself, or that your house is older than
Mrs Evans' house! But if you say:
'My house is older than Mrs Evans's''
/isiz/ at the end, it is clear that you are talking about houses
in both cases!