I would like to know what the rule is to explain why we do not use the genitive construction hotel's room. Instead, we say "a hotel room".

Other examples:

  • a hospital bed
  • a bike stand

Would it suffice to ask "What kind of..."?

  • 1
    Hotel, hospital, etc. are serving as adjectives. You'd be correct but awkward saying hotel's.
    – David M
    Mar 24 '14 at 15:20
  • 2
    You mean 'modifiers'. 'Adjective' is a grammatical category and these aren't adjectives (e.g. you can't say "a more hotel room" or "the bikest stand"). Mar 24 '14 at 22:11
  • 1
    @DavidM question is about genitive vs attributive nouns; might be simple but how is it off-topic? Almost all grammar-related questions can be answered through commonly-available references, but in that case this should be changed
    – msam
    Mar 25 '14 at 7:31
  • @msam it's still general reference.
    – David M
    Mar 25 '14 at 14:24
  • @DavidM in that case almost all grammar-related questions should be closed. Not trying to be provocative but the line between what is accepted and what is off-topic is not well-defined and seems to be totally subjective.
    – msam
    Mar 25 '14 at 14:56

Your examples use nouns that are used to modify other nouns (attributive nouns). Possessive (also called Saxon Genitive) constructions, on the other hand, show possession [in the extended (my bike's front wheel) rather than just the proprietorial (John's bike) sense].

"a hotel's room" - a room belonging to a hotel

"a hotel room" - a specific type of room, somehow related to hotels (in this case also usually belonging to the hotel but that is not necessarily important)

similarly "hospital's bed", vs "hospital bed"

  • We have three beds from central supplies and one from King Edward VII Hospital. The hospital's bed must be returned by May 2.
  • A hospital bed can be identified by the fact that it may be raised electrically.
  • There are an additional 10 000 new hospital beds in the new Nightingale hospitals. [Here, beds may mean beds, ie spaces, available.]

"the bike's stand" would imply that the stand belongs to the bike while "bike stand" describes a type of stand that is somehow related to bikes (of course, here, designed to house bikes).

  • Remember that these are not actually a genitive case like yours, mine, and ours, but rather are the result of applying an apostrophe-s clitic to the entire noun phrase. “The guy standing in front of the hotel’s hat just blew off.” Calling hotel’s there some sort of genitive really does not make any sense at all.
    – tchrist
    Mar 28 '14 at 18:53
  • @tchrist While the clitic vs genitive issue is highly debatable I changed the answer slightly to avoid confusion (even though the post being closed it probably makes no difference at all)
    – msam
    Apr 1 '14 at 8:19
  • Attributive nouns have various semantic roles, and this may lead to ambiguity. A 'hospital bed' may mean a bed manufactured for use in a hospital (and maybe still awaiting delivery), bed 6 on ward 10, or even a space for a new patient. Jun 22 '17 at 9:25

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