What is the maximum number of times can one use possessive ('s) in one sentence before it looks clumsy? At what point should 'of' be used instead of "'s"? For example, does the following sentence look strange?
"John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen is dirty"

Josh Norther
1 2
What is the maximum number of times can one use possessive

Sorry - should be "...one can use..."

Josh Norther
What is the maximum number of times can one use possessive ('s) in one sentence before it looks clumsy? At what point should 'of' be used instead of "'s"? For example, does the following sentence look strange? "John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen is dirty"

So John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen's dirt's cleansing is overdue, then?

Cheers, Harvey
Ottawa/Toronto/Edmonton for 30 years;
Southern England for the past 22 years.
(for e-mail, change harvey.news to harvey.van)
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What is the maximum number of times can one use possessive ('s) in one sentence before it looks clumsy? At what point should 'of' be used instead of "'s"? For example, does the following sentence look strange? "John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen is dirty"

Yes and no. Depends on context. If that's how you would normally say it, then write it that way. (Personally, I would say "car windscreen".) Having said this, if writing for a formal context, it's probably best to rewrite a potentially opaque or confusing sentence.
Adrian
What is the maximum number of times can one use possessive ('s) in one sentence before it looks clumsy? At what point should 'of' be used instead of "'s"? For example, does the following sentence look strange? "John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen is dirty"

Yes the sentence looks strange, if not incomprehensibly so but this has nothing to do with rules as of grammar. English also seeks euphony (harmed by too many S
sounds) and clarity (harmed by long strings of nouns.) We can usually rewrite appropriately, e.g.
"The car with the dirty windscreen belonged to John's daughter's boy friend"
but few of us think fast enough to solve problems
like this skilfully in everyday speech.
But no rules solve such problems automatically.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
What is the maximum number of times can one use possessive ('s) in one sentence before it looks clumsy? At what point should 'of' be used instead of "'s"? For example, does the following sentence look strange? "John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen is dirty"

John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windshield's wiper blades need replacing. ;-)>
I seem to recall somewhere that the absolute number is related to the work spoken about in the article by Miller;
'The Magical Number Seven, plus or minus two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information' at
http://www.well.com/user/smalin/miller.html
but, I didn't see any mention of it in the article itself. I believe that another linguist whose name I can't recall wrote about it and referenced Miller's paper.

David Wright
http://home.alltel.net/dwrighsr/index.html
To e-mail me, remove 't' from dwrightsr
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On 10 Feb 2005, Josh Norther wrote

What is the maximum number of times can one use ... sentence look strange? "John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen is dirty"

So John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen's dirt's cleansing is overdue, then?

I think Harvey's answer to Josh's question about English's grammatical rules regarding a writer's or speaker's obligation to reduce the possessive esses in the sentence about John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen's dirt's cleansing being overdue indirectly reveals Harvey's position on the matter's importance.
Mike
On 10 Feb 2005, Josh Norther wrote So John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen's dirt's cleansing is overdue, then?

I think Harvey's answer to Josh's question about English's grammatical rules regarding a writer's or speaker's obligation to reduce the possessive esses in the sentence about John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen's dirt's cleansing being overdue indirectly reveals Harvey's position on the matter's importance.

Your thought's accuracy's unimpeachable. (Yeah, I know: that's only one possessive...)

Cheers, Harvey
Ottawa/Toronto/Edmonton for 30 years;
Southern England for the past 22 years.
(for e-mail, change harvey.news to harvey.van)
What is the maximum number of times can one use ... sentence look strange? "John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windscreen is dirty"

John's daughter's boyfriend's car's windshield's wiper blades need replacing. ;-)> I seem to recall somewhere that the absolute number is ... the article itself. I believe that another linguist whose name I can't recall wrote about it and referenced Miller's paper.

Swift solved the problem handily:-
Big fleas have smaller fleas upon their backs to bite 'em, .. and so ad infinitem.
Or summat like that.
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