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I have encountered such a term, and I have no idea what it is. Could it be 'of'?

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closed as general reference by simchona, Jasper Loy, yoozer8, FumbleFingers, JeffSahol Dec 18 '11 at 18:21

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

-1 for absolutely no research effort. – simchona Dec 18 '11 at 17:28
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Norman genitive, or French genitive, is another term for analytic genitive. The following phrases use the Norman genitive.

  • the future of mankind
  • the roof of your house
  • the leaves of those trees

The following phrases use the Saxon genitive, or synthetic genitive.

  • Michael's sister
  • Joanna's boyfriend
  • the cat's leg
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+1 for including Saxon genitive. – user11550 Dec 18 '11 at 17:30
Lovely! There's a Saxon and a Norman genitive -- terms unknown to me before now! I wonder if there's a Celtic genitive? – Cyberherbalist Feb 28 '14 at 18:16

The analytic genitive, also known as the French or Norman genitive, is the genitive in "of" form, like "The question of Lukas", "The answer of Phoenix", "The house of John", "the doors of the car". The other form is the synthetic genitive, also known as the Saxon genitive, which is the possessive with the apostrophe, like "Lukas' question", "Phoenix's answer", "John's house", "The car's doors"

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A Norman genitive is simply placing "of" between two nouns to indicate possession:

  • The voice of the people.
  • The leaves of the tree.
  • The violins of the concert band.

The owning noun (also known as the noun in genitive) is an attribute of the owned noun.

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In Modern English, both constructions are frequently encountered, as pointed out in the other answers. There is, however, a decided preference for use of the Saxon genitive with human or animate possessors,

  • *the house of Bill ~ Bill's house
  • *the leg of Fido ~ Fido's leg

but the Norman genitive with inanimate possessors:

  • *the table's foot ~ the foot of the table
  • *the day's middle ~ the middle of the day

As usual, Language makes opportunistic use of an accidental form distinction to mark a functional distinction.

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There is also week's schedule. I don't think there is a preference for the schedule of the week, instead of week's schedule. – kiamlaluno Dec 18 '11 at 18:06
There are a lot of fixed phrases with common nouns like day, week, etc. This being December, we're seeing a lot of lists now headed The Year's Best X, or even 2011's Best X. This is a tendency, not a fixed rule. – John Lawler Dec 18 '11 at 18:17
I knew a person, native speaker of American English, who uses the Saxon genitive also with inanimate objects. As she was born in 1952, I am not sure that is a tendency. – kiamlaluno Dec 18 '11 at 18:44

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