Monday, August 15, 2016



   Person is that property of substantives which shows whether they denote (1) the speaker, (2) the person spoken to, or (3) the person spoken of.

 A substantive is in the first person when it denotes the speaker, in the second person when it denotes the person spoken to, in the third  person when it denotes the person or thing spoken of.

  I, the  king , command his presence. [First person.]

  You,  Thomas , broke the window. [Second person.]

   Charles , come here. [Second person.]

  He, the  fireman , saved the train. [Third person.]

  The  diver  sinks slowly from our view. [Third person.]

  The  tower  suddenly collapsed. [Third person.]

The examples show (1) that the person of a noun has nothing to do with its form, but is indicated by the sense or connection; (2) that certain pronouns denote person with precision. Thus,  I  is always of the first person;  you  of the second; and  he  of the third.


    Substantives have inflections of case to indicate their grammatical relations to verbs, to prepositions, or to other substantives. 

There are three cases,--the  nominative , the  possessive , and the  objective .

  The possessive case is often called the  genitive .

The nominative and the objective case of a noun are always alike in form. In some pronouns, however, there is a difference (as,-- I ,  me ;  he ,  him ).


 .  The inflection of a substantive is called its  declension . To  decline  a noun is to give its case-forms in order, first in the singular number and then in the plural. Thus,--


   Nominative     boy        horse      fly       chimney
   Possessive     boy’s      horse’s    fly’s     chimney’s
   Objective        boy        horse      fly       chimney


   Nominative     boys       horses     flies     chimneys
   Possessive     boys’      horses’    flies’    chimneys’
   Objective        boys       horses     flies     chimneys


   Nominative       calf       lass       man       deer
   Possessive     calf’s     lass’s     man’s     deer’s
   Objective        calf       lass       man       deer


   Nominative     calves     lasses     men       deer
   Possessive     calves’    lasses’    men’s     deer’s
   Objective      calves     lasses     men       deer


   The  nominative case  is used in the following constructions:
(1) the subject, (2) the predicate nominative, (3) the vocative, (or nominative of direct address), (4) the exclamatory nominative, (5)
appositive with a nominative, (6) the nominative absolute. 

1.  The subject of a verb is in the nominative case. 

   Water  freezes.

   Charles  climbed the mountain.

  The boy’s  face  glowed with health and exercise.

  A thousand  men  were killed in this battle.

In the third example,  face  is the simple subject; the complete subject is  the boy’s face . In the fourth,  men  is the simple subject; the complete subject is  a thousand men . Both  face  and  men  are in the nominative case;  face  is in the singular number;  men  in the plural.

2.  A substantive standing in the predicate, but describing or defining the subject, agrees with the subject in case and is called a predicate nominative. 

  A predicate nominative is also called a  subject complement  or an    attribute .

  Lobsters are  crustaceans .

  A good book is a faithful  friend .

  Shakspere was a  native  of Stratford-on-Avon.

  Arnold proved a  traitor .

  Adams was elected  president .

The rule for the case of the predicate nominative is particularly important with respect to pronouns .
I am  he .    Are you  she ?

  It is  I .    It was  we  who did it.

The predicate nominative is commonest after the copula  is  (in its various forms). It will be further studied in connection with intransitive and passive verbs ]

3.  A substantive used for the purpose of addressing a person directly, and not connected with any verb, is called a vocative. 

A vocative is in the nominative case, and is often called a  nominative   by direct address  or a  vocative nominative .

  Come,  Ruth , give me your hand.

  Turn to the right,  madam .

   Herbert , it is your turn.

  Come with me, my  child .

  NOTE. A vocative word is sometimes said to be  independent by direct   address , because it stands by itself, unconnected with any verb.
  That a vocative is really in the nominative case may be seen in the   use of the pronoun  thou  in this construction: as,--I will arrest    thee,  thou  traitor .

4.  A substantive used as an exclamation is called an exclamatory nominative (or nominative of exclamation). 

   Peace , be still.

  Fortunate  Ruth !

  A  drum ! a  drum ! Macbeth doth come.

  Look! a  balloon !

The  sun ! then we shall have a fine day.

  Certain exclamatory nominatives are sometimes classed as   interjections 

5.  A substantive added to another substantive to explain it and signifying the same person or thing, is called an appositive and is said to be in apposition. 

 An appositive is in the same case as the substantive which it limits. 

Hence a substantive in apposition with a nominative is in the nominative case.

  Mr. Scott, the  grocer , is here. [Apposition with subject.]

  Tom, old  fellow , I am glad to see you. [Apposition with vocative.]

  The discoverer of the Pacific was Balboa, a  Spaniard . [Apposition   with predicate nominative.]

  NOTE.  Apposition  means “attachment”;  appositive  means “attached   noun or pronoun.” An appositive modifies the noun with which it   is in apposition much as an adjective might do (compare “Balboa,   a  Spaniard ” with “ Spanish  Balboa”). Hence it is classed as an   adjective modifier


   The possessive case denotes ownership or possession. 

   John’s  yacht lies at her moorings.

  The  duck’s  feet are webbed.

  The  mutineer’s  pistol burst when he fired.

  NOTE. Most uses of the possessive come under the general head of    possession  in some sense. Special varieties of meaning are  source    (as in “ hen’s  eggs”) and  authorship  (as in “ Wordsworth’s    sonnets”).

  A possessive noun or pronoun modifies the substantive to which it   is attached as an adjective might do. Hence it is classed as an   adjective modifier.

Forms of the Possessive Case

 The possessive case of most nouns has, in the singular number, the ending  ’s . 

  EXAMPLES: the owl’s feathers, Elizabeth’s hat, the officer’s name.

 Plural nouns ending in  s  take no further ending for the possessive. In writing, however, an apostrophe is put after the  s  to indicate the possessive case. 

  EXAMPLES: the owls’ feathers, the officers’ names, the artists’   petition, the engineers’ ball.

 Plural nouns not ending in  s  take  ’s  in the possessive. 

  EXAMPLES: the firemen’s ball, the policemen’s quarters, the   children’s hour.

NOTE. In older English the possessive of most nouns was written as   well as pronounced with the ending  -es  or  -is . Thus, in Chaucer,   the possessive of  child  is  childës  or  childis ; that of  king    is  kingës  or  kingis ; that of  John  is  Johnës  or  Johnis . The   use of an apostrophe in the possessive is a comparatively modern   device, due to a misunderstanding. Scholars at one time thought the    s  of the possessive a fragment of the pronoun  his ; that is, they   took such a phrase as  George’s book  for a contraction of  George   his book . Hence they used the apostrophe before  s  to signify   the supposed omission of part of the word  his . Similarly, in the   possessive plural, there was thought to be an omission of a final    es ; that is, such a phrase as  the horses’ heads  was thought to be   a contraction of the  horseses  heads. Both these errors have long   been exploded.

 Nouns like  sheep  and  deer , which have the same form in both the singular and the plural, usually take  ’s  in the possessive plural.

  Thus,  the deer’s tracks  would be written, whether one deer or more   were meant.


1. Monosyllabic nouns ending in  s  or an  s -sound usually make their possessive singular by adding  ’s .

  EXAMPLES: Charles’s hat, Forbes’s garden, Mr. Wells’s daughter,   Rice’s carriage, Mrs. Dix’s family, a fox’s brush.

  NOTE. Most of these monosyllabic nouns in s are family names. The   rule accords with the best usage; but it is not absolute, for usage   varies. Hence forms like  Charles’  and  Wells’  cannot be condemned   as positively wrong, though  Charles’s  and  Wells’s  are preferable.
  In speaking, the shorter form is often ambiguous, for there is no   difference in sound between  Dix’  and  Dick’s ,  Mr. Hills’  and
   Mr. Hill’s ,  Dr. Childs’  and  Dr. Child’s .

2. Nouns of two or more syllables ending in  s  or an  s -sound, and not accented on the last syllable, may make their possessive singular by adding  ’s , or may take no ending in the possessive.

In the latter case, an apostrophe is added in writing, but in sound there is no difference between the possessive and the nominative.

  EXAMPLES: Burrows’s ( or  Burrows’) Hotel, Æneas’s ( or  Æneas’)   voyage, Beatrice’s ( or  Beatrice’) gratitude, Felix’s ( or  Felix’)   arrival, for conscience’s ( or  conscience’) sake. 

Most of the nouns in question are proper names. In speaking, one must often use the longer form to prevent ambiguity; for  Williams’  and  William’s ,  Roberts’  and  Robert’s ,  Robbins’  and  Robin’s , are indistinguishable in sound.

  NOTE. Nouns of two or more syllables ending in  s  or an  s -sound   and accented on the last syllable, follow the rule for monosyllables.
  Thus,-- Laplace’s  mathematics (not  Laplace’ );  Alphonse’s  father   (not  Alphonse’ ).

  When final  s  is silent (as in many French names),  ’s  must of   course be added in the possessive. Thus,-- Descartes’s  philosophy   (pronounced  Daycárt’s ).

Use of the Possessive Case 

Possession may be denoted by a phrase with  of  as well as by the possessive case. The distinction between the two forms cannot be brought under rigid rules, but the following suggestions will be of use.

I. In older English and in poetry the possessive case of nouns is freely used, but in modern prose it is rare unless the possessor is a living being. A phrase with  of  is used instead.

  The mayor  of Detroit  (NOT  Detroit’s  mayor).

  The top  of the post  (NOT the  post’s  top).

  The prevalence  of the epidemic  (NOT the  epidemic’s  prevalence).

Contrast the poetic use:--

   Belgium’s  capital had gathered then
  Her beauty and her chivalry.--BYRON.

  Other prepositions are sometimes used: as,--“the explosion in  New
  York ” (NOT “ New York’s  explosion”), “the station  at Plymouth .”

II. When the possessor is a living being, good usage varies.

  1. If there is actual ownership or possession of some material thing,   the possessive case is generally used in the singular: as,--“John’s    hat ” (not “the hat  of John ”). The possessive plural, however,   is often replaced by a phrase with  of , to avoid ambiguity or   harshness: as,--“the jewels  of the ladies ” (rather than “the    ladies’  jewels”)[17], “the wings  of the geese ” (rather than “the    geese’s  wings”).

  2. With nouns denoting a quality, an act, or the like, either the   possessive or the  of -phrase is proper: as,--“ John’s  generosity,”    or “the generosity  of John ”; “ John’s  condition,” or “the   condition  of John ”; “the  guide’s  efforts,” or “the efforts  of   the guide ”; “ Cæsar’s  death,” or “the death  of Cæsar .”

  When there is any choice, it usually depends on euphony (that is,   agreeable sound), and is therefore a question of style. Sometimes,   however, there is a distinction in sense. “ John’s  fear,” for   example, indicates that John is afraid; but “the fear  of John ”   means the fear which John inspires in others.

III. The following phrases are established idioms with the possessive. In some of them, however, the possessive may be replaced by  of  and its object.

  (1) The earth’s surface, the sun’s rays, the moon’s reflection, the   pit’s mouth, a rope’s end, his journey’s end, at his wit’s end, the   ship’s keel, the water’s edge, the cannon’s mouth, out of harm’s   way, at swords’ points, for pity’s sake, for conscience’ sake; (2)   a moment’s pause, a year’s time, a hand’s breadth, a boat’s length,   a month’s salary, a week’s notice, a night’s rest, a day’s work, a
  stone’s throw, a feather’s weight, an hour’s delay, a dollar’s worth,   not a foot’s difference.

  In the second group of phrases (“a moment’s pause,” etc.), the   possessive denotes not ownership, but  measure  or  extent .

IV. The possessive case of certain pronouns ( my ,  our ,  your ,  his ,  her ,  its ,  their ) is more freely used than that of nouns in expressions that do not denote actual ownership.

  I know him to  my  sorrow. [Compare: to his loss, to our detriment,   to his advantage.]

  The brass has lost  its  polish.

  This question must be decided on  its  merits.

  His arguments did not fail of  their  effect.

  For the inflection of these pronouns,  For the use of    whose 

 .  When a thing belongs to two or more  joint owners , the sign of the possessive is added to the last name only.

  Brown, Jones, and Richardson’s factories. [Brown, Jones, and   Richardson are partners.]

  It is George and William’s turn to take the boat. [George and William   are to go in the boat together.]

  On the other hand, in order to avoid ambiguity we should say, “Brown’s, Jones’s, and Richardson’s factories,” if each individual   had a factory of his own; and “George’s and William’s answers were   correct,” if each boy answered independently of the other.

.  In  compound nouns  the last part takes the possessive sign. So also when a phrase is used as a noun.

  My  father-in-law’s  home is in Easton.

  We had  a quarter of an hour’s  talk.

Other examples are the following:--

  My brother-in-law’s opinion; the commander-in-chief’s orders; the   lady-in-waiting’s duties; the coal dealer’s prices; Edward VII’s
  reign; the King of England’s portrait; half a year’s delay; in three   or four months’ time; a cable and a half’s length; the pleasure of
  Major Pendennis and Mr. Arthur Pendennis’s company (THACKERAY).

  NOTE. Noun-phrases often contain two substantives, the second of   which is in apposition with the first. In such phrases,  of  is   generally preferable to the possessive. Thus, we may say either “Tom   the blacksmith’s daughter” or “the daughter of Tom the blacksmith”;   but “the son of Mr. Hill the carpenter” is both neater and clearer   than “Mr. Hill the carpenter’s son.” The use of  ’s  is also avoided   with a very long phrase like “the owner of the house on the other   side of the street.”

  An objective may stand in apposition with a possessive, the latter   being equivalent to  of  with an object. Thus,--“I am not yet of   Percy’s mind [= of the mind of Percy], the  Hotspur  of the North”   (SHAKSPERE).

 The noun denoting the object possessed is often omitted when it may be readily understood, especially in the predicate.

   Conant’s  [shop] is open until noon.

  I buy my hats at  Bryant’s  [shop].

  We will dine at  Pennock’s  [restaurant].

  That camera is  mine . 
This construction is common in such expressions as:--

  He was a relative of  John’s .

  That careless tongue of  John’s  will get him into trouble.

  In the first example, “a relative of John’s” means “a relative of   (=  from among ) John’s relatives.” The second example shows an   extension of this construction by analogy. 

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