genitive as a descriptive attribute

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sergeyrais

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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. ?
 

bhaisahab

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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.
 

sergeyrais

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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?
 

sergeyrais

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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
 

5jj

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a three days’ absence
a two miles’ distance
a three miles' walk
a fifteen minutes' break
None of these examples is very natural.
 

sergeyrais

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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?
 

5jj

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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.
 

sergeyrais

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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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