is it ok to say:
they are the socks of Tom's father
I am confused by your post. What does your analogy mean? I do not see the parallel.
A friend of Tom's (=one of Tom's friends)
a car of my brother's (=one of my brother's cars)
The difference between 'a dress of my mother's' and 'a dress of my friend's mother's' is that the latter has double possessive. In the former phrase we have 'my' as an attribute for 'mother', in the latter - 'friend's' performs the same function. I believe the latter type isn't really common. I would say: one of the dresses of my friend's mother.
Last edited by Clark; 12-Jan-2009 at 06:27.
Okay, but what does that have to do with the original two posted sentences?
1) They are Tom's father's socks.
2) They are the socks of Tom's father.
Although #1 is far more common, they are both perfectly good English sentences.
This is a book of mine. (not of me, or of I) - absolute form of a possessive pronoun.
So why 'of Tom's father' instead of '... father's'? The construction requires absolute possessive, whether it is the form of a pronoun or a noun.
Besides, why 'the socks'? I don't see how the idea of limitation is expressed in this sentence. Does Tom's father have only one pair of socks?
Structures with genitive of-phrases have a number of different meanings:
a) a container with its content: a cup of tea
b) a certain quantity: a piece of wood
c) part and whole relationship: the roof of the house
d) measure: a distance of 3 miles.
But none of these phrases has a noun in the possessive case, their meaning being different from the one I specified above (=one of).
The double genitive is generally confined to human referents.