English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is the expression "Liver's ability to detoxify alcohol was tested..." grammatically correct? Can it also be used for genes, for example: "C-MYC's role in cancer is well known". This is, can gene molecules, organs and other body parts be used as such in sentences like the ones in the examples?

share|improve this question

closed as not a real question by Will Hunting, jwpat7, Matt E. Эллен, simchona, Mitch Mar 27 '12 at 15:25

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Why do you think there might be something wrong with those sentences? – Armen Ծիրունյան Mar 27 '12 at 13:54
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Sure, livers, genes etc. possess properties. In english, that possession is often indicated via an apostrophe ess.

share|improve this answer

I presume you're asking about the -'s possessive suffix. There's no problem with that. There is a problem, however, with the use of Liver in

Liver's ability to detoxify alcohol was tested..

Without an article, liver is a meat, a mass noun like beef, never treated as a count noun:

I had a liver last night for supper.

(Well, almost never; Hannibal Lector is an outlier. But the fact that the thought occurs is why the count construction's avoided.)

Presumably, this sentence is about an experiment. Generally, the construction used there would be a Definite Generic The liver.

The liver's ability to detoxify alcohol was tested..

... and, one more quibble. Epistemologically, one can't actually "test" a generic; the generic liver doesn't exist and is not available for testing -- it's a platonic ideal.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.