We in English have an odd and useful tool: a possessive that can be appended to an entire phrase, rather than to just one word.  Look at the following:

Il figlio del re d’Inghilterra  (Italian)
Le fils du roi d’Angleterre  (French)
Der Sohn des Koeniges von England  (German)

Word of the Day In each case, the possessive applies to the noun alone.  In the Romance languages, the possessive must be marked by a prepositional phrase:  The son of the king.   In German, the possessive is typically marked twice, by the word order, and by our well-known  on masculine or neuter singular nouns.  It’s how we form our possessives: we add an  s,  but unlike the Germans, we add it to all nouns:  It’s women’s night at the Colonnade.   The Germans can say, too,  Des Koeniges Sohn, the king’s son,  but that’s unusual, and for special emphasis.

What none of those languages can do is what we do all the time:

The King of England’s son.

Now, let’s stop and look at that.  He isn’t  England’s son,  the Prince of Wales; he’s the king’s son.  So why don’t we put the ending on the word  King?   That would seem logical.  The fact is, that’s what we used to do:

The King’s son of England.

But that, you see, caused a little confusion.  Notice the difference:

The man on the street’s wife

The man’s wife on the street

That won’t do.  So we have a phrasal possessive.  But one shouldn’t be too reckless about using it:

The fellow I saw yesterday at the Burger King in Farmville’s Cadillac

Best then to use an adjectival phrase to show possession:

The Cadillac belonging to the fellow I saw yesterday at the Burger King.

What he was doing with a Cadillac at the Burger King, I’ll never know.

Articles by Anthony Esolen

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