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  1. #1
    sergeyrais is offline Junior Member
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    genitive as a descriptive attribute

    Can we use an indefinite article referring it to the head-noun modified by a plural noun in the genitive case considering the latter as a descriptive attribute?
    e.g.
    a soldiers' canteen, a girls' school, a three miles' walk, a fifteen minutes' break
    , etc. ?

  2. #2
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Re: genitive as a descriptive attribute

    Quote Originally Posted by sergeyrais View Post
    Can we use an indefinite article referring it to the head-noun modified by a plural noun in the genitive case considering the latter as a descriptive attribute?
    e.g.
    a soldiers' canteen, a girls' school, a three miles' walk, a fifteen minutes' break
    , etc. ?
    The first two are OK, although I don't like the first one much, it doesn't feel natural. The second two are not possible.

  3. #3
    sergeyrais is offline Junior Member
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    Re: genitive as a descriptive attribute

    Dear Moderator,
    Could you recommend me a trustworthy grammar reference where I would find some information about the use of articles with countable nouns modified by nouns in the genetive case?

  4. #4
    sergeyrais is offline Junior Member
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    Re: genitive as a descriptive attribute

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    The first two are OK, although I don't like the first one much, it doesn't feel natural. The second two are not possible.
    a three days’ absence
    a two miles’ distance
    a three miles' walk
    a fifteen minutes' break

    Is there anything wrong in the following explanation of the constructions above?

    1. The -'s genitive is possible with certain nouns denoting time, distance and measure.
    2. It is possible to use plural nouns with the -'s genitive.
    3. The noun in the genitive case may be used as a classifying (descriptive) attribute before a noun.
    4. A noun modified with a classifying (descriptive) attribute should be used with an indefinite article

  5. #5
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: genitive as a descriptive attribute

    Quote Originally Posted by sergeyrais View Post
    a three days’ absence
    a two miles’ distance
    a three miles' walk
    a fifteen minutes' break
    None of these examples is very natural.

  6. #6
    sergeyrais is offline Junior Member
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    Re: genitive as a descriptive attribute

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    None of these examples is very natural.
    Dear 5jj,
    Should one identify these examples as unnatural through linguistic intuition or are there any special rules in the English grammar which make the examples incorrect?

  7. #7
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: genitive as a descriptive attribute

    Quote Originally Posted by sergeyrais View Post
    Should one identify these examples as unnatural through linguistic intuition or are there any special rules in the English grammar which make the examples incorrect?
    There are no firm rules that I know of. It's simply a matter of some forms being acceptable and others not. You can read more on Genitive meanings, Genitive as determiner and Gender as modifier in Quirk et al (1985), A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, London: UOP, pages 321-331. You could also try Huddleston and Pullum (2002), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge: CUP, pages 467-483.

  8. #8
    sergeyrais is offline Junior Member
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    Re: genitive as a descriptive attribute

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    There are no firm rules that I know of. It's simply a matter of some forms being acceptable and others not. You can read more on Genitive meanings, Genitive as determiner and Gender as modifier in Quirk et al (1985), A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, London: UOP, pages 321-331. You could also try Huddleston and Pullum (2002), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge: CUP, pages 467-483.
    not a teacher

    Dear 5jj,
    Thank you indeed for your advising me the Grammar references. They are really useful. Having read
    Quirk et al (1985),
    A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, London: UOP, pages 321-331I found out a mistake in my explanation of indefinite articles in the phrases
    a three days’ absence, a two miles’ distance, a three miles' walk,
    a fifteen minutes' break etc., for I claimed the genitive of those phrases to be a descriptive one, but it turned out to be a genitive of measure, thus not giving us a good reason for
    referring
    an indefinite article
    to the head-noun modified by a plural noun in the genitive case. But if it were a descriptive genitive, I believe things would be different.

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