The English possessive refers to one of several constructions that describe ownership or association between two objects.

Possession in English can be indicated in a variety of ways:

  1. With a verb such as to have: Mary has a car.
  2. With the possessive suffix ’s: This is Mary’s car.
  3. With the preposition of: The window of the car is broken.

Only the latter two items above are generally referred to as possessive. This is sometimes called the genitive, especially by those who have studied other languages.

English has both an inflectional genitive (example #2 above), formed by adding ’s to the end of the noun or noun phrase, and also a periphrastic (or compound) genitive, formed by using of the (example #3 above). Some source refer to possessives of the ’s kind as the Saxon genitive and to those of the of-the kind as the Norman genitive, because of the distinct historical routes by which those forms entered the English language.

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