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Is using the possessive 's correct in “the car's antenna”?

Is it "role of the FRG" or "the FRG's role"? I know that although the FRG is not a person, people do say, for instance, "America's role in ..."

Please help.

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marked as duplicate by tchrist, simchona Aug 28 '12 at 0:47

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You can say either. I don't believe there's any difference in meaning. –  user16269 Aug 27 '12 at 21:18
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Ok. Could you explain why, though? I need it for a very formal document. –  arik-so Aug 27 '12 at 21:22
    
This Ngram seems to suggest that both are used with similar frequency. –  Cameron Aug 27 '12 at 21:22
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@arik-so I have no idea what you're asking me to explain. You want me to explain etymologically why both are correct? You want me to tell you that native speakers use both forms? I can assure you that both would be acceptable in a formal document. What do you want me to explain? –  user16269 Aug 27 '12 at 23:52
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I'm not sure where you got the idea that possessives can only be used for animate objects. There's no such rule in English, and indeed we routinely use "'s" on inanimate objects, like "the car's antenna", "the book's cover", "the chair's leg", etc etc. I suspect you misread some rule. Do you have a source? I'm curious what it said. –  Jay Aug 28 '12 at 4:51

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Either is perfectly correct. I cannot think of any English noun (except, as tchrist points out, names already in possessive form) which cannot be cast in the possessive case.

The issue of animacy or personality only arises with gender, which in English is grammatical category peculiar to pronouns. You would not, for instance, ordinarily write of the FRG, that *his role is . . ., but *its role is . . . * or *her role is . . . *—or possibly *their role is . . . * (but only possibly, and only if what you have in mind is something like the Family Readiness Group—the Federal Republic of Germany would take its or her).

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You can’t make possessive a noun that is already possessive. Sometimes you have the urge to do so, as in the chain of (so-called :) restaurants formally named “Macdonald’s”, or the London-based insurance firm named “Lloyd’s”. See the problem? They’re using a genitive as a new nominative, and you can’t regen it. So to speak. –  tchrist Aug 28 '12 at 0:00

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