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  1. #1
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Question Punctuation question (from a teacher!)

    Hi all

    Can anyone give me a simple explanation as to why we use an apostrophe when writing the length of time a journey will take. For example:

    It's 8 hours' drive from here.

    Is it really as simple as the fact that what you are saying is that it is a drive OF 8 hours, and therefore possessive?!!! That doesn't seem plausible, to me at least.

    My poor student yesterday got in a complete tangle, especially when I explained that if you add the article, you suddenly don't need a plural or an apostrophe (It's 8 hours' drive OR It's AN 8 HOUR drive).

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Mzungu39 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Punctuation question (from a teacher!)

    Hi,

    In the first case 8 hours' drive is a premodifier in the inflected genitive. The inflected genitive does not always express possession. It can express the doer of an action: my friend's arrival, object of the action: the thief's arrest, origin: Shakespeare's plays, etc.
    In this case it expresses measure: the drive lasts 8 hours

    In the second case we have a singular noun in a common case premodifying another noun. In such cases the premodifying noun is usually in the singular: a department store, a pyjama party, an 8 hour drive; I think we should use a hyphen in such cases: an 8-hour drive, a 23-year-old girl, etc.

    We use plural when there's a difference in meaning, eg. a custom-customs= customs officer.

    I hope I have helped.

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