By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:
- recognise the genitive form of nouns.
- explain that ‘genitive’ simply means possessor or owner. iii. use the genitive form of nouns appropriately.
The genitive form
The genitive is the form of a noun or pronoun that shows possession or ownership. So, the word genitive simply means possessor or owner of an entity. For example, in the sentence,
Kofi’s pen is on the table
the form, Kofi’s, is the genitive case and it shows that ‘Kofi’ is the possessor and owner of the item in question. So, the genitive case is sometimes called the possessive form.
Other English cases include ‘subject’ and ‘object’. For example, in the sentence,
Kofi gave the man a pen.
Kofi is the subject of the verb gave. You notice that the form, Kofi, does not change when it functions as subject. Similarly, in the sentence,
The man gave Kofi a pen.
Kofi is object of the verb gave. You notice again that the form, Kofi, does not change when it functions as object. But in the genitive case, the form Kofi changes to a different form, Kofi’s. Let us look at the sentence below.
This is Kofi’s pen.
Therefore, the genitive is the only case where English nouns take on a different form. Observe the items in the table below; the form of the noun in subject case is the same as the form in object case. But the form for genitive case is different.
Thus, English nouns make changes in form to indicate the genitive case.
Forms of the genitive case of nouns
The genitive case of English nouns can be expressed in three different ways.
- possessive genitive
- partitive genitive
- double genitive
The possessive genitive
The genitive case may be expressed by using the possessive marker. There are seven main forms of the possessive genitive. They are discussed below.
1. The first form of the possessive genitive is singular noun + the apostrophe + the possessive marker ‘s’. For example:
Singular Noun Singular Possessive
So, the possessive of a singular noun is formed by adding an apostrophe and ‘s’, (’s) to the singular form. It is important to observe the pronunciation of the possessive forms shown above.
Read the sentences below. Notice the pronunciation of the possessive forms.
- Our teacher’s table is placed in front of the class.
- What is attractive about the baby’s eyes?
- I think Jones’s suggestion is the best.
- Do you know Alice’s mother?
The lesson to be learnt here is simple. First, in English, when the letter ‘s’ is doubled in a word, it is pronounced just like the single ‘s’. Second, the apostrophe is not heard or pronounced in English. Third, if there is an apostrophe between two ‘s’, the apostrophe is not pronounced and the two ‘s’ are pronounced just like one ‘s’.
2. The second form of the possessive genitive is plural noun ending in ‘s’ + the apostrophe . For example:
Plural Noun Plural Possessive
So, the possessive of plural nouns ending in ‘s’ may be formed by adding only the apostrophe to the plural form.
3. The third form of the possessive genitive is plural noun not ending in‘s’ + the apostrophe + ‘s’. For example:
Plural Plural Possessive
So, the possessive of plural nouns not ending in ‘s’ is formed by adding an apostrophe and ‘s’ (’s) to the plural form.
4. The fourth form of the possessive genitive is abstract noun ending in ‘ss’ or ‘ce’ + the apostrophe . For example :
for goodness’ sake
for righteousness’ sake
for conscience’ sake
Thus, the possessive of abstract nouns ending in ‘ss’ or ‘ce’ is formed by adding only an apostrophe. However, it is now more fashionable to drop the apostrophe in such phrases. For example:
for goodness sake
for righteousness sake for conscience sake
5. Another form of the possessive genitive is the last word of a compound noun + an apostrophe + ‘s’. For example:
Singular Noun Singular Possessive
Plural Noun Plural Possessive
So, the possessive form of a compound noun is formed by adding the apostrophe and ‘s’ (’s) to the last word of the compound noun.
6. The sixth form of the possessive genitive expresses separate ownership. To express separate ownership, make all words show possession. For example:
Aku’s, Adjo’s and Mamle’s fathers are all business men.
7. The seventh form of the possessive genitive expresses joint ownership. To indicate joint ownership, make only the last word show possession. For example:
Akweley and Kork or’s store is closed today.
It is important to observe that possessive markers are not used with inanimate nouns. For example, it is incorrect to say:
The men rested at the mountain’s foot for a while. (Incorrect)
Instead, we say:
The men rested at the foot of the mountain for a while.
There are exceptions to this rule. These include the following:
1. expressions of time, for example:
two weeks’ duty tour
a day’s holiday
three weeks’ vacation.
Use these expressions in sentences.
- Mr Charles Baah starts his two week s’ duty tour today.
- The students were given a day’s holiday after participating in the independence anniversary celebrations.
- Ms Baiden’s three weeks’ vacation ends tomorrow.
2. expressions of measurement, for example:
twenty miles’ journey.
3. an organization that is thought of as being made up of people. For example:
disciplinary committee’s proposal examination committee’s report.
The partitive genitive
The partitive genitive is expressed by using the partitive marker of. This is an ‘of- phrase’ and is the expanded form from which the possessive markers are derived. For example:
the gates of the building.
the top of the mountain.
the legs of the table.
the handle of the ladle.
the head of the mouse.
The partitive genitive can be used to express the genitive case of all nouns, though it is mostly used with inanimate nouns.
The double genitive
This form combines the use of the partitive genitive and the possessive genitive. For example:
- A daughter of Prof. Addo’s should be a lady of eminence.
- This hand of mine has suffered many hurts.
This use of the genitive case of nouns is not common among second language speakers of English.
You have learnt that:
- the genitive is the case that shows possession or ownership. So, the word genitive simply means possessor or owner of an entity.
- we say that the genitive is the only case where English nouns take a different form.
- the genitive case of English nouns can be expressed in three different ways: the possessive genitive, the partitive genitive, and the double genitive.
- the partitive genitive is expressed by using an ‘of-phrase’.
- the double genitive form combines the use of the partitive genitive and the possessive genitive.
John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.
Modestus Fosu, Ph.D.
Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil.
William Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.