Possessive Case

Forming the Possessive Case

Knowing your possessive case
Picture speaks better: Knowing your possessive case

The Possessive case (or as it's also known, Genitive case), is that form in which a noun is used in order to indicate that something belongs to the person or thing for which it stands.

In English the possessive case is not only used to indicate belongings or possessions but it’s also used in other ways to indicate various relations between the noun marked for possession and the noun that follows:

ConstructionIndication
daddy's pet, the president's adviserpossession or belonging
the tide's ebbing, Army's presentationsubject of action
the company's lawyer, the hero's betrayalobject of an action
learner's dictionary, a women's collegedescription or type
Gretchen's kindness, the hero's braveryattribute
Beethoven's symphonies, grandmother's letterorigin
a day's journey, an arm's length measurement, amount
A Practical Example:
  • I borrowed Gretchen’s piano

In the sentence “I borrowed Gretchen’s piano,” the noun Gretchen’s is in the possessive case, to indicate that Gretchen possesses something (namely, a piano). Therefore, Gretchen’s, is the possessive case of the noun Gretchen.

The noun in the possessive case is said to be governed by the noun which stands for the property which is possessed. In the example above, the noun Gretchen’s is governed by the noun piano.

As what is possessed must be a person or a thing of some kind, a noun in the possessive case can only be governed by a noun.

The meaning of the possessive case is sometimes expressed by means of the preposition of, with the objective case after it. For example, for “Gretchen’s book,” we may say, “The book of Gretchen.” However, the possessive case must not be substituted for the preposition of, unless possession is implied by it.