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Genitive case

Grammatical cases
List of grammatical cases
Abessive case
Ablative case
Absolutive case
Adessive case
Allative case
Causal case
Causal-final case
Comitative case
Dative case
Dedative case
Delative case
Disjunctive case
Distributive case
Distributive-temporal case
Elative case
Essive case
Essive-formal case
Essive-modal case
Excessive case
Final case
Formal case
Genitive case
Illative case
Inessive case
Instructive case
Instrumental case
Lative case
Locative case
Modal case
Multiplicative case
Oblique case
Objective case
Partitive case
Possessive case
Postpositional case
Prepositional case
Prolative case
Prosecutive case
Separative case
Sociative case
Sublative case
Superessive case
Temporal case
Terminative case
Translative case
Vialis case
Vocative case
Morphosyntactic alignment
Absolutive case
Accusative case
Ergative case
Instrumental case
Instrumental-comitative case
Intransitive case
Nominative case
Declension in English

The genitive case is an adjectival form of a noun that shows some sort of relationship between itself and what it describes. In a general sense, this genitive relationship may be thought of as one thing belonging to, being created from, or otherwise deriving from some other thing.

Specific varieties of genitive relationships include:

  • origin ("men of Rome")
  • composition ("wheel of cheese")
  • part of a mass ("a pound of beef")
  • number of distinct items (Old English "féower manna"; literally, "four of men")
  • relationship ("Janet's husband")
  • subjectivity ("my leaving")
  • objectivity ("the archduke's murder")
  • description ("man of honor", "day of reckoning")
  • inalienable possession ("my height", "his existence", "her long fingers")
  • alienable possession ("his jacket", "my drink")

The last two relationships are the most commonly expressed by the genitive.

Several languages have genitive cases, including Arabic, Latin, Irish, Greek, German, Dutch, Russian, Finnish and Sanskrit.

It is a common misconception that English nouns have a genitive case, marked by the possessive -'s ending. Linguists generally believe that English possessive is no longer a case at all, but has become a clitic, an independent particle which, however, is always written and pronounced as part of the preceding word. This can be shown by the following example: 'The King of Sparta's wife was called Helen.'. If the English -'s were a genitive, then the wife would belong to Sparta; but the -'s attaches not to the word 'Sparta', but to the entire phrase 'King of Sparta'.

That is not to say that the English possessive did not have its origins as a genitive case; but it has developed into being a clitic instead. In Old English, a common singular genitive ending was -es. The 18th century explanation that the apostrophe might replace a genitive pronoun, as in "the king's horse" being a shortened form of 'the king, his horse', is erroneous. Rather, the apostrophe is replacing the 'e' from the Old English morphology.

A few remnants of the genitive case do remain in Modern English in a few pronouns as whose, the genitive form of who; likewise, my/mine, his/hers/its, our/ours, their/theirs. See also Declension in English.

In some languages, genitive nouns agree in case with the nouns they modify. This phenomenon is called suffixaufnahme.

One form in which genitive cases may be found is inclusio.

In astronomy, it is important to know the genitive form of the Latin names of constellations, because these are used along with letters of the Greek alphabet to name stars. For example, since the genitive of Gemini is Geminorum, the star Castor, brightest in the constellation Gemini, is named α Geminorum. For more details, see Bayer designation.

Last updated: 02-10-2005 23:04:39
Last updated: 02-17-2005 09:15:38