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I have a document about a problem description where that description is given step by step, like this:

  1. RED entry
  2. BLUE entry
  3. ...

Now, I want to explicitly refer to two entries in that document, but I'm not sure about the most grammatically correct way to express myself:

  1. In problem's description at RED and BLUE' entries the word X must be replaced by Y.
  2. In problem's description at RED and BLUE's entries the word X must be replaced by Y.
  3. In problem's description at entries RED and BLUE the word X must be replaced by Y

Which one of that is the most correct ?

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In problem's description at RED and BLUE entries the word X must be replaced by Y – Armen Ծիրունյան Aug 21 '12 at 11:50
Are you saying that there is no need to use possesive here ? – utxeee Aug 21 '12 at 12:03
Yup, that's exactly what I'm saying. – Armen Ծիրունյան Aug 21 '12 at 12:08
Hi RegDwight АΑA, as for the question above I am enlightened. Now, I really want a few guidelines regarding when to use possessive or just an attribute ? – utxeee Aug 21 '12 at 14:49
up vote 4 down vote accepted

None of your sentences are particularly easy to understand for a native English speaker. I think what you mean is something like this:

In the problem description for the RED and BLUE entries, the word X must be replaced by Y.

You have two cases where you are using a possessive with -'s where you should just be using an attributive, namely:

  • problem's description -> the problem description
  • RED and BLUE's entries -> the RED and BLUE entries

Note that in both cases you really need the definite article.

The reason for this is that the English possessive is typically only used in places where the possessor actually owns the possessed thing. In situations where the possessor is inanimate or is only associated with the possessed thing, the attributive is more often used (though in some situations the possessive may still occur).

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Thanks for the reply. Can you give some lights about when I should use an attribute instead of possessive, I found myself too many times behind that kind of doubt. – utxeee Aug 21 '12 at 13:07
I feel like somewhere here one should mention that ’s is quasi-distributive in English, and can also apply to a large phrase rather than just to a single word: Peter, Paul, and Mary’s best albums; the Lord of Castle Black’s surly demeanor. – tchrist Aug 21 '12 at 13:14
Hi, thank you too. But can you look at my question above, please ? – utxeee Aug 21 '12 at 13:40
@utxeee, I've added a short explanation of the difference between possessive and attributive, but a more complete answer is outside the scope of this question. – JSBձոգչ Aug 21 '12 at 14:59
Thank you a lot :D – utxeee Aug 21 '12 at 15:06

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