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The use of the genitive with inanimate objects I was tought that the Genitive Case is formed by -'s for animate objects (Tom's hat) and by the of-phrase for inanimate objects (leg of the table). But sometimes I see examples like "Russia's economy", "the mountain's top" and many more. So can we use -'s with inanimate nouns or is it bad English? Thank you in advance!
Feb 24, 2012 10:00 AM
Answers · 8
I have never heard of "the genitive case", but I think when you study some foreign languages, you learn grammar rules and terminology that apply and bridge knowledge that relates to that foreign language study. I think when it comes to inanimate objects, we would normally call it: the car tire, the table leg, the computer monitor. You are right about a person or animal changing the usage. We would say the cat's tail, the lady's face. This would be done without knowing the rules because when you are raised with English, you learn what "sounds right". However, to a foreigner, you would have to illustrate the "rule" because it wouldn't be evident to the untrained ear. Isn't it true, that you learn more about your own language when you study a foreign language.
February 24, 2012
It's a silly and obsolete rule--feel free to use the genitive for both animate and inanimate objects. For someone to say, e.g., "the tire of the car is flat" rather than "the car's tire is flat" is just ridiculous!
February 24, 2012
Actually, the form "mountain's top" is what is called a 'descriptive genitive'. It is more to describe than show possession. There are some very strict English teachers that tell you that it is wrong, but you will see this form used a lot and I don't see anything wrong with it. Another example of a descriptive genitive would be 'a day's pay' "Russia's economy" can certainly be used because I would hardly consider the whole country of Russia to be inanimate. My opinion, of course. In the case of "the table's leg", I would prefer a compound noun - "the table leg". It just sounds better,.
February 24, 2012
I will just refer to it as the possessive case. I think you are correct in the purest sense. Most people remain unaware or have forgotten.
February 24, 2012
Language Skills
English, Russian, Spanish
Learning Language
English, Spanish