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    #1

    Tom's or Bob's eel

    I am brushing up on my English grammar. I have the following sentence:

    That eel is not Bob's but Tom's.

    What part of speech is Bob's and what part of speech is Tom's in the sentence?

    I, being an amateur at this, say: not Bob's is a postmodifier (of that eel), a predicative adjective phrase.

    Is Tom's then a pronoun for that eel?

    Tom is a Proper noun. But I am not sure what Tom's is.
    If I write: Tom's car, looks like Tom's is a determiner.
    If I write That eel is Tom's, then it looks to me like Tom's is just what I said above, a predicative adjective. or is that short sentence an ellipsis, and I should really be writing: That eel is Tom's eel. Which makes Tom's a determiner.
    Very flexible word, Tom's.

  1. Monticello's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Tom's or Bob's eel

    Hi Pedroski,

    It's been decades since I "diagrammed a sentence." God knows we spent endless hours in the 4th & 5th grade doing this. Looking back, I think it was all just a clever ploy invented by nuns to keep their charges tamed.

    (By the way, having just seen the movie Doubt, starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, I can't recommend it enough. Anyway, in the background of one of the classroom scenes is a green schoolhouse "blackboard" with an intricately diagrammed sentence. - it was deja vu all over again! Yogi Berra must've diagrammed more than his share of sentences in his time. And look how he turned out! )

    Yes, about your question ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Pedroski
    ... or is that short sentence an ellipsis, and I should really be writing: That eel is Tom's eel. Which makes Tom's a determiner.
    Yes, you're on the right track. The sentence is certainly an ellipsis. In the Romance (or Latin) languages, there is no construction that is equivalent to the English possessive as designated by an "apostrophe - s" (" 's "). Instead, these languages follow the construction of the Vulgar Latin possessive case -- which English may also do: ".. the eel of Tom" or "...the eel of Bob". Thus, the ellipsis of your sentence may be expanded to:
    That eel is not the eel of Tom, but (it is) the eel of Bob.
    - or an even greater expansion:
    That eel is not the eel that belongs to Tom, but the eel that belongs to Bob.
    In any event, it should now be clear that in your sentence both Bob's and Tom's are possessive case nouns.

    As to how one would diagram the sentence? - Please! I don't want to know!
    Last edited by Monticello; 06-Apr-2009 at 07:40.

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    #3

    Re: Tom's or Bob's eel

    That eel is not Bob's but Tom's

    So are you saying Bob's is the Indirect Object and Tom's is the Direct Object?

    If I say: That eel is not roasted but fried., then not roasted is an adjective phrase and fried is too. Exchange them for not red but blue. Same thing.
    So, even though Tom is a noun, and Tom's a derivative of Tom, it seems to me that the usage here is syntatically different, although morphologically, Tom's may be a possessive noun. Smoking is Present Participle and a noun. In 'A smoking gun' smoking is not a verb.
    I tend to think that here, Tom's is a pronoun and Bob's an adjective. But I could be completely mistaken!

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    #4

    Re: Tom's or Bob's eel

    Ah well, can't be a pronoun: I've just read:
    In contrast to nouns, pronouns constitute a closed class –no new pronouns have been added to English for hundreds of years. If anything, the class has become smaller instead, as few speakers now make use of the forms thee, thou, thy, and thine.
    So I'm still confused!

  2. Soup's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Tom's or Bob's eel

    Ex: That eel is not Bob's (eel) but Tom's (eel).

    Hi Pedroski

    Every word has a form, what it looks like, and a function, what it does in a sentence:

    That
    form: demonstrative pronoun, also called a demonstrative determiner
    function: determiner

    eel
    form = singular count-noun
    function = subject

    is
    form = 3rd person singular verb
    function = main verb

    not
    form = adverb
    function = negation

    Bob's
    form = possessive noun (also called a possessive adjective and a possessive determiner)
    function = subject complement

    but
    form = coordinating conjunction
    function = conjunction

    Tom's
    form = possessive noun (also called a possessive adjective and a possessive determiner)
    function = subject complement

  3. Monticello's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Tom's or Bob's eel

    Hi Soup,

    Thanks for resisting any urge you might have had here to diagram Pedroski's sentence.

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    #7

    Re: Tom's or Bob's eel

    Hi and thanks for your answers.

    Would just like to say, Soup, you are hedging your bets. In any given sentence, a word can only, if it is not repeated, be one part of speech.
    So, decide: a noun is not an adjective is not a determiner. Three different word classes. In German we say 'Du kannst nur auf einer Hochzeit tanzen.' ( You can only dance at one wedding (at a time)).

    Tom's
    form = possessive noun (also called a possessive adjective and a possessive determiner)
    function = subject complement
    And if you are in Nanjing, Soup, let me know!

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    #8

    Re: Tom's or Bob's eel

    Hi Pedroski

    First, I'm not familiar with the idiom hedging one's bets. What does it mean?

    Second, while it is true that 'in any given sentence, a word can only, if it is not repeated, be one part of speech', every words has a a form. When we talk about words within a sentence, we talk about their function: how their position within the structure contributes meaning; e.g., John laughed. John is a noun in form, specifically, a proper noun, and its function is that of subject.

    Third, a noun can indeed 'function' an adjective; e.g., mountain bike (Learn more here). On the term 'determiner':
    What are traditionally and popularly, if mistakenly, called possessive adjectives — in linguistic analyses possessive pronouns, possessive determiners or genitive pronouns — are a part of speech that prototypically modifies a noun by attributing possession to someone or something (but see below). Depending on the theory the grammar subscribes to, English "possessive adjectives" are determiners or pronouns: possessive determiners,[1] possessive pronouns,[2] dependent genitive pronouns,[3] weak possessive pronouns,[4] and so forth.

    Read more here Possessive adjective - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Note, terminology has always been and always will be a problem--for linguists and learners alike. My seasoned advice, don't get caught up in the semantics of it all, at least, not just yet. Learn the basics, first. It's good advice. (I've been teaching English for over 20 years, in 4 countries, and I hold an MA in Theoretical Linguistics.)


    Hope my advice helps.

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    #9

    Re: Tom's or Bob's eel

    "Hedging your bets" comes from horse racing: you are not sure which horse will win, so you bet on more than one.
    Do you know the saying, "he got more than he bargained for"?

    Well that is true here for me, and I've enjoyed it! Thanks for some good advice.

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