Grammar : "of", " 's" or nothing ?

Subject: Grammar : "of", " 's" or nothing ?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Yoann Le Bleis <yoannlebleis -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 07 Aug 2006 09:52:45 -0400

Yoann Le Bleis wondered: <<Does anyone have a good link to a page that exhaustively defines the use of *of*, *'s* and *nothing* in a nominal group?>>

Best bet is to pick up a good, comprehensive style guide such as the Chicago Manual of Style; it contains a wealth of grammatical information. I relearned most of my English grammar from the 14th edition, which has been replaced and should thus be available inexpensively as a used copy. In addition, most good dictionaries have a section that discusses English grammar in varying degrees of detail, and the better ones also provide usage examples for most words in the dictionary.

<<Can I use the *'s* for an object possessing another object? eg "widget's event" What about concepts? How can I choose between "confidentiality rules" and "rules of confidentiality"?>>

Yes, you can use the possessive in the first case, but English accepts the use of unmodified nouns as adjectives (I believe they're called "attributive nouns"), as in your second example. Both are acceptable, but phrases that use "of" are wordier and thus less useful in most technical communication. Unfortunately, knowing when they're required depends on a strong knowledge of English idiom, which you'll only develop by reading a lot of good English writing; for example, you'd never say "the Wales Prince" ("Prince of Wales" is preferred). Some of these choices will be found in books on usage (Fowler's book is the best known, but Garner is more recent and is well respected).

And when in doubt, ask! We techwhirlers have endless patience for polite inquiries from people who have done a bit of research on their own to try to solve a problem before coming to us for help.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com


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grammar : "of", " 's" or nothing ?: From: Yoann Le Bleis

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