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    #1

    "the trees' tops" or "the tops of trees"?

    I read this in a grammar book: "the leaves of the tree" is wrong, it should be "the tree's leaves", and the "sth of sth" form is only usually used in the title, such as Map of China, The History of Hangzhou...
    But I read a sentence in "The story of an Hour" (written by Kate Chopin): She could see the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life.
    Here, why didn't the author use genitive case ("sth's sth" form)?

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: "the trees' tops" or "the tops of trees"?

    "The leaves on the tree(s)" is fine. I don't think that "the leaves of the tree" is wrong.

    "The tops of (the) trees" and "the treetops" are both OK. "The tree's top/the trees' tops" sound unnatural to me.

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    #3

    Re: "the trees' tops" or "the tops of trees"?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    "The leaves on the tree(s)" is fine. I don't think that "the leaves of the tree" is wrong.

    "The tops of (the) trees" and "the treetops" are both OK. "The tree's top/the trees' tops" sound unnatural to me.
    Do "the leaves of the tree" and "the door of the car" sound awkward? Do English native speakers often use the possessive case (sth of sth)? Compare with genitive case (sth's sth).

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: "the trees' tops" or "the tops of trees"?

    Quote Originally Posted by registered View Post
    Do "the leaves of the tree" and "the door of the car" sound awkward? Do English native speakers often use the possessive case (sth of sth)? Compare with genitive case (sth's sth).
    Yes, the X of Y is very common in English. Which construction one chooses is largely a matter of style and preference. There are constructions in which one is more natural than the other, however.

    We say "friend of mine" and "my friend". We say "the dog's paw" and "the paw of the dog".
    We say "He took Anthony's pen" but not "He took the pen of Anthony".

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    #5

    Re: "the trees' tops" or "the tops of trees"?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Yes, the X of Y is very common in English. Which construction one chooses is largely a matter of style and preference. There are constructions in which one is more natural than the other, however.

    We say "friend of mine" and "my friend". We say "the dog's paw" and "the paw of the dog".
    We say "He took Anthony's pen" but not "He took the pen of Anthony".
    Could you give me more examples about these two cases that have the same meaning and are both natural?

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    #6

    Re: "the trees' tops" or "the tops of trees"?

    Quote Originally Posted by registered View Post
    Could you give me more examples about these two cases that have the same meaning and are both natural?
    Why don't you try forming your own pairs? You can post them and then we can comment.

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    #7

    Re: "the trees' tops" or "the tops of trees"?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Why don't you try forming your own pairs? You can post them and then we can comment.
    a part of this book, this book's one part.
    the faculty of Harvard, Harvard's faculty.
    the title of this book, the book's title.

    By the way, is "a story of his" different from "his story"? The first one means a story telling about him, and the latter one means a story he told.
    Is the same as "a photo of mine" and "my photo"?

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: "the trees' tops" or "the tops of trees"?

    Quote Originally Posted by registered View Post
    a part of this book, this book's one part.
    the faculty of Harvard, Harvard's faculty.
    the title of this book, the book's title.

    By the way, is "a story of his" different from "his story"? The first one means a story telling about him, and the latter one means a story he told.
    Is the same as "a photo of mine" and "my photo"?
    Excellent job! I knew you could it.

    In your first set, the first is great (and could also have been "one part of this book"); the second is possible, but less likely.
    In your second set, both are correct and common.
    In your third set, both are correct and common.

    In the fourth set, things are less clear. The first could be a story he wrote, a story he told, or a story he owns. The second could be a story he wrote, a story he told, or a story about him. In some contexts, there could be more possibilities.
    In the fifth set, the first could be a photo he owns or possesses, possibly one he took. The second could be a photo of him or a photo he owns or possesses. Again context could create other possibilities.

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