Grammatical niceties: the double possessive

C. G. Estabrook galliher at
Thu Feb 11 15:09:13 PST 1999

The double possessive in English distinguishes between subjective and objective genitives. E.g.,

[1] I disagree with that opinion of Doug's

doesn't mean the same as

[2] I disagree with that opinion of Doug.

If you try to make it clear that [1] is subjective by recasting it as

[3] I disagree with Doug's opinion,

you at least lose some specificity.

--C. G. Estabrook

On Thu, 11 Feb 1999, Greg Nowell wrote:

> Perhaps I've got too many romance languages, but I've
> always thought the English double possessive to be
> silly. Lately it seems I can't read anything without
> seeing it.
> I went to visit a friend of Brian's.
> Je suis alle rendre visite a un ami de Brian.
> Note that the French has a simple genitive. Why can't
> we just say I went to see a friend of Brian? In fact,
> that's what I usually write. But maybe it's a
> gallicism. God knows I had a pissing match a few years
> ago with the editor of my book.
> --
> Gregory P. Nowell
> Associate Professor
> Department of Political Science, Milne 100
> State University of New York
> 135 Western Ave.
> Albany, New York 12222
> Fax 518-442-5298

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