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  1. #1
    suprunp's Avatar
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    Default the first day's contest

    "the first day's contest"
    Some examples from COCA:
    "the first day's fighting"
    "That ended the first day's battle at Gettysburg."
    "the first day's hunt."


    What function does the genitive perform here? Does it act as a determinative or as a modifier?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: the first day's contest

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    "the first day's contest"
    Some examples from COCA:
    "the first day's fighting"
    "That ended the first day's battle at Gettysburg."
    "the first day's hunt."

    What function does the genitive perform here? Does it act as a determinative or as a modifier?

    Thanks.

    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) Some advanced learners, such as you, know more grammar than many

    native speakers, such as I.

    (2) Until I read your post, I had never heard of the word "determinative."

    (3) I have patiently waited two days for someone to answer, but -- alas -- no one

    has, so may I start?

    (4) Professor Quirk in his super famous grammar book A Comprehensive Grammar

    of the English Language says on page 326 of the 1985 edition:

    Most commonly the genitive fuctions as a determinative.

    (5) On page 327, he says:

    There are occasional examples where the genitive acts as a modifier.

    (a) The professor is referring to "descriptive genitives" (that classify

    things):

    women's universities.
    a ship's doctor.
    farmers' wives
    a summer's day.
    a doctor's degree.

    (b) He gives this interesting contrast on pages 1335- 1336:

    I visited his old fisherman's cottage. = modifier.
    I visited his old friend's cottage. = determinative.

    (6) You can decide for yourself whether you think that your examples fit the

    definition of "descriptive genitives." If they do, then they are modifiers. If they do

    not, then they are determinatives.

    (7) Of course, I do not have the confidence to express my opinion.

    (8) Let's hope that some knowledgeable person (teacher or advanced learner)

    answers.
    Last edited by TheParser; 15-Jul-2011 at 10:22.

  3. #3
    suprunp's Avatar
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    Default Re: the first day's contest

    Thank you TheParser for your elucidative answer.

    I've looked through the pages 1335- 1336 of A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language and saw this:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    "Thus, in [1a], old modifies fisherman's cottage, whereas, in [1b], old modifies the determinative genitive head friend's. In [1a], no item can intervene between fisherman's and cottage and the premodifying genitive may be replaced by, for example, a noun: his old country cottage. In [1b], the head of the superordinate noun phrase can be further modified in the usual way:
    his old friend's delightful but crumbling cottage."

    I think that in "the first day's fighting" we can further modify "fighting":
    "the first day's big fierce fighting".
    Therefore the genitive seems to act as a determinative here and hence:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    (But I still do not know for sure and it's only my subjective opinion.)

  4. #4
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: the first day's contest

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    Thank you TheParser for your elucidative answer.

    I've looked through the pages 1335- 1336 of A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language and saw this:
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	untitled.PNG 
Views:	6 
Size:	6.7 KB 
ID:	1141
    "Thus, in [1a], old modifies fisherman's cottage, whereas, in [1b], old modifies the determinative genitive head friend's. In [1a], no item can intervene between fisherman's and cottage and the premodifying genitive may be replaced by, for example, a noun: his old country cottage. In [1b], the head of the superordinate noun phrase can be further modified in the usual way:
    his old friend's delightful but crumbling cottage."

    I think that in "the first day's fighting" we can further modify "fighting":
    "the first day's big fierce fighting".
    Therefore the genitive seems to act as a determinative here and hence:
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	untitled1.PNG 
Views:	2 
Size:	2.0 KB 
ID:	1140

    (But I still do not know for sure and it's only my subjective opinion.)

    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) Your answer has given me a little more courage to whisper:

    Yes, I agree with you: in "the first day's battle," I think we can agree that

    "first" does not modify "battle" but "day." So I guess that it is "proof" that the

    genitive is a determinative. Besides, "the first day's battle" (I think) cannot be

    compared with the professor's examples of "descriptive genitives" such as:

    women's universities, ship's doctor, farmers' wives, fisherman's cottage, etc. Those

    are classifications. But in "the first day's

    battle," we are talking about something that happened once at Gettysburg: the first

    day of battle at Gettysburg.In other words: that battle. (And "that" is a determiner,

    isn't it?)

    (2) Thanks again so much for your question. It reminded me of how much I do

    not know.

  5. #5
    suprunp's Avatar
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    Default Re: the first day's contest

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post

    [...] It reminded me of how much I do not know.
    The more I think about this issue, the more it seems that I do not know so much as well.

    I was told that the "the big dog's toy" can be viewed in two ways:
    1."the {big dog}'s toy" - which, in my humble opinion, means that the genitive acts as a determinative here.
    2."the big {dog's toy}" - which, in my humble opinion, means that the genitive acts as a modifier here.
    From the aforesaid I can surmise that the way in which the genitive is viewed is again a matter of choice of a particular speaker.

    (The Oxford English Grammar, Sidney Greenbaum gives us this example:
    A good girls' school is ambiguous between 'a school for good girls' and its more plausible interpretation 'a good school for girls'.)

    But is it solely a matter of choice or does language put some restrictions?
    It seems that "the first day's battle" can be viewed only in one way. But what if I put it this way:
    "The Battle of Lubrze was a night battle which took place during the Deluge (part of the Second Northern War) in August of 1656 between Polish forces and a Swedish-Brandenburg force. This was the first night's battle in the history of the world (this sentence is fictional).
    (Does "the first {night's battle}" sound natural here?

    Can these examples be accepted as natural as well?

    1. "The {first man}'s occupation" - determinative (the occupation of the first man [Adam?]).
    2. "The first {man's occupation}" - modifier (the first occupation of our ancestors).

    Thanks.

  6. #6
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: the first day's contest

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    The more I think about this issue, the more it seems that I do not know so much as well.

    I was told that the "the big dog's toy" can be viewed in two ways:
    1."the {big dog}'s toy" - which, in my humble opinion, means that the genitive acts as a determinative here.
    2."the big {dog's toy}" - which, in my humble opinion, means that the genitive acts as a modifier here.
    From the aforesaid I can surmise that the way in which the genitive is viewed is again a matter of choice of a particular speaker.

    (The Oxford English Grammar, Sidney Greenbaum gives us this example:
    A good girls' school is ambiguous between 'a school for good girls' and its more plausible interpretation 'a good school for girls'.)

    But is it solely a matter of choice or does language put some restrictions?
    It seems that "the first day's battle" can be viewed only in one way. But what if I put it this way:
    "The Battle of Lubrze was a night battle which took place during the Deluge (part of the Second Northern War) in August of 1656 between Polish forces and a Swedish-Brandenburg force. This was the first night's battle in the history of the world (this sentence is fictional).
    (Does "the first {night's battle}" sound natural here?

    Can these examples be accepted as natural as well?

    1. "The {first man}'s occupation" - determinative (the occupation of the first man [Adam?]).
    2. "The first {man's occupation}" - modifier (the first occupation of our ancestors).

    Thanks.

    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) You put me to shame.

    (2) Your questions are way over my head.

    (3) I shall print out your post and spend hours trying to understand it.

    (4) Hopefully, others will join this thread. (P.S. This is such a difficult

    matter that a native speaker who gives grammar advice to foreign learners

    humbly admitted that she had no idea about "determinatives" vs. "modifiers.")

  7. #7
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: the first day's contest

    This seems to be a type of question that a grammar teacher might like to ask, but has no relevance to understanding the meaning of the sentence.

    I'm just a native speaker, but I don't see where knowing if it is a "determinitive" or a "modifier" makes any difference?

  8. #8
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: the first day's contest

    A big dog toy means a big toy that would be used by a dog.
    A big dog's toy means a toy that belongs to a dog that you know is big.I would never interpret this to mean the first.

    We still have to employ common sense.

    Does anyone actually think there is a school for good girls and a school for naughty girls? Okay, sure, a lot of teenage boys might wish there was a school for naughty girls, and they could break into the grounds, but let's be realistic.

    There are very, VERY few times when you're left in genuine confusion about what is modifying what. If you're not sure, then the writer did a bad job. If you're the writer, the use of a hyphen or a recasting of the sentence will save your readers from trying to figure out what you meant.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  9. #9
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: the first day's contest

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post



    "The Battle of Lubrze was a night battle which took place during the Deluge (part of the Second Northern War) in August of 1656 between Polish forces and a Swedish-Brandenburg force. This was the first night's battle in the history of the world (this sentence is fictional).
    (Does "the first {night's battle}" sound natural here?

    Can these examples be accepted as natural as well?

    1. "The {first man}'s occupation" - determinative (the occupation of the first man [Adam?]).
    2. "The first {man's occupation}" - modifier (the first occupation of our ancestors).

    Thanks.

    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) How wonderful that two other persons have joined this thread. Their great

    contributions caused me to consider whether you are overemphasizing

    the use of the genitive (which we ordinary speakers call the "possessive") in English.

    (2) If you are referring to the first time in history that human beings slaughtered one

    another at night, I do not think that the genitive would be appropriate. I think that you

    would need the noun + noun construction, which is very difficult for many learners to

    grasp. So maybe (maybe) your sentence should be something like:

    The battle at X is also noteworthy because it included the first night battle in history.

    (a) Maybe the genitive could be used only like this:

    The first night's battle was bloody, but the second night's (battle) was less so.

    (3) If you want to mention Adam's occupation, maybe you could say:

    What was the first male human being's occupation?

    (4) If you want to refer to the first occupation created by our human ancestors,

    maybe a genitive question might not be the best vehicle. How about using the -of

    construction: What was the first occupation of human beings?

    (There is a naughty saying: "P_____ is the oldest profession in the world." Since

    this is a family website, I give only the first letter, but I'm sure that you can guess

    the word. That profession is illegal here but legal in many other countries.)

    (5) The bottom line: I think that this thread has been great. It educated me about

    something that I had never heard of before; maybe it will encourage you to put less

    stress on the genitive and more on the noun + noun and the -of constructions, which

    are very popular in English. THANKS again.

  10. #10
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: the first day's contest

    [QUOTE=suprunp;775193]

    What function does the genitive perform here? Does it act as a determinative or as a modifier?

    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) I just had to thank you again for teaching me the difference between a

    determinative and a modifier.

    (2) A few minutes ago, I read this headline on the Web:

    Tom Cruise's Latest Ladies' Man Role.

    (3) Thanks to you, I realized -- for the first time -- that "Cruise's" is a determinative

    ("Tom Cruise's" could be replaced by "His") and that "Ladies' " is a modifier (since

    "ladies' man" is a descriptive genitive. It describes any man who is popular with

    women).

    As you young people say: Awesome, dude!!!

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