Hi,
i'm studying the case of "classifying genitives."
I have noticed that for some of them, the noun before 's is in the plural: "a women's college" for example (even though this category is now fortunately old-fashioned!) is there a rule indicating if theis word should be in the plural or the singular?
Yet, for most of them, the nouns before 's is in the singular: " child's face", "a dog's life", " a user's guide".
What if the noun phrase is in the plural?
1) I live a dog's life.

> they live dog's lives OR dogs's lives?
2) She has a child's face

> they have child's faces OR children's faces?
3) She has a princess's dress.

> they have princess's dresses ORprincesses' dresses?

4) He has a singer's voice.

> They have singer's voices OR singers'voices?
As the word before 's is often described as playing the part of an adjective, I would be tempted to say "they have child's faces".

Many thanks for your help,
Clara
1 2
Hi, i'm studying the case of "classifying genitives." I have noticed that for some of them, the noun before 's ... category is now fortunately old-fashioned!) is there a rule indicating if theis wordshould be in the plural or the singular?

Usually, the first word is singular when it refers to only one thing, and plural when it refers to more than one thing. So you say "women's college" because there are many women there. But you could also say "A woman's college is important to her."
I'm sure there are exceptions to this that someone else will point out.
What if the noun phrase is in the plural? 1) I live a dog's life.

> they live dog's lives ... have princess's dresses OR princesses' dresses? 4) He has a singer's voice.

> They have singer's voices OR singers' voices?

The plural form would be correct in all these cases. But: "He read four user's guides," not "users' guides," because "user's guide" is a fixed expression.
As the word before 's is often described as playing the part of an adjective, I would be tempted to say "they have child's faces".

It plays the role of an adjective, but it keeps the form of a noun.
Many thanks for your help, Clara

You're welcome. Good question.
i'm studying the case of "classifying genitives." I have noticed that for some of them, the noun before 's is ... singular: " child's face", "a dog's life", " a user's guide". What if the noun phrase is in the plural?

The rule is that, when the noun is both plural
and genitive, the plural appears first, followed
by whatever construction shows the
possessive case thus:
woman's work, women's college,
one dog's nose, two dogs' noses.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
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They live dogs' lives.
or, if you want to do it that way
They live a dog's life.
(there's something of an ellipse in that, but it's idiomatic enough)
2) She has a child's face

> they have child's faces OR children's faces?


They have children's faces.
3) She has a princess's dress. > they have princess's dresses OR princesses' dresses?

They have princesses' dresses.
4) He has a singer's voice. ==> They have singer's voices OR singers' voices?

They have singers' voices.
I think you are looking at two types of words here. "Dogs", "princesses", and "singers" are regular: you use the plural apostrophe. But "women" (and "men") and "children" are different in that, though in effect plural, they act as a singular mass - a mass of women, a mass of children, and so the apostrophe is used in the singular way. Treat them as exceptions to be remembered.

If you don't like that form (though it's perfectly normal), you could use "each" or "every", and say something like "each had a child's face". In the case of "women's college", though, "each woman's college" would indicate that each woman had a different college. "Women's college" means a college for a group of women; "women's colleges" means colleges for groups of women, or for women in general. If you wanted to get round that, you could say "Ladies' colleges", which works in the regular way.
As the word before 's is often described as playing the part of an adjective, I would be tempted to say "they have child's faces".

It would be understood but is definitely incorrect.

Peasemarch.
Hi, i'm studying the case of "classifying genitives." I have noticed that for some of them, the noun before 's ... is often described as playing the part of an adjective, I would be tempted to say "they have child's faces".

In each case, you can turn the ('s) form into an 'of' form:

life of a dog, face of a child, dress of a princess, voice of a singer.

If you said 'lives of a dog', 'faces of a child', 'dresses of a princess', or 'voices of a singer', it would be wrong because it would attribute more than one of a unique thing to the possessor.

Unless it were the proverbial nine lives of a cat, the many dresses of one princess, or the voices of Harry Belafonte.

john
i'm studying the case of "classifying genitives." I have noticed ... is in the plural: "a women's college" for example

The rule is that, when the noun is both plural and genitive,

Technically, it is inaccurate to call these "genitives," since there is no grammatical case in modern English. (No, not even in the pronouns.) The "'s" ending is, rather, a noun-phrase subordinator.
That's why we say "the king of England's daughter." If English had a genitive case, we would say "the king's of England daughter."
\\P. Schultz
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The rule is that, when the noun is both plural and genitive,

Technically, it is inaccurate to call these "genitives," since there is no grammatical case in modern English. (No, not even ... say "the king of England's daughter." If English had a genitive case, we would say "the king's of England daughter."

"The kyng's dochter of Norroway, 'tis thou maun bring her hame" exemplifies another way round it. But there is no difficulty in holding that the genitive termination must under certain circumstances be added to the end of a phrase rather than to a particular noun.
In any case, what value, pray, has this distinction without a significant difference?
Mike.
the

Technically, it is inaccurate to call these "genitives," since there ... genitive case, we would say "the king's of England daughter."

"The kyng's dochter of Norroway, 'tis thou maun bring her hame" exemplifies another way round it.

One that is not available in present-day English. In any event, it's not a question of 'finding a way round it', it's a question of describing the grammar of present-day English.

But there is no difficulty in
holding that the genitive termination must under certain circumstances be added to the end of a phrase rather than to a particular noun.

It's every circumstance, not just certain ones. Only when the head noun itself ends the noun phrase does the ending get added to the head noun. There is no difficulty in this, the difficulty arises when one tries to fit this system into the mould of a traditional case-system.
In any case, what value, pray, has this distinction without a significant difference?

It's the heart and soul of grammar. You can't meaningfully say that the genitive case of "king" is "king's"; this does not account for "the king of England's...", "the king who died's...", etc. You can meaningfully say that the possessive morpheme attaches to the end of the noun phrase whose head it marks. This means that the is a syntactic function, unlike the morphological functions of case-systems. It also means that semantics enter into the interpretation of its usages: "the king who built the palace's grave" vs. "the king who built the palace's roof". Yes the descends from a genitive case marker, but it is not one any longer. The development of this
transformation is both fascinating and beautiful.
In any case, what value, pray, has this distinction without a significant difference?

It's the heart and soul of grammar. You can't meaningfully say that the genitive case of "king" is "king's"; this ... genitive case marker, but it is not one any longer. The development of this transformation is both fascinating and beautiful.

I really enjoy your posts. They are not only acute but convey the joy of studying language.
Peasemarch.
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