My problem is about the possessive s (the ownership s) not that ending-s.

For example, we say, America's Flag, here the America has gotten one ownership s that is America is the owner of that Flag. And also we say, Computer Science, here that Computer doesn't get the ownership s (why?) even though we talk about Science which is of Computer (here).

My question is when we should add that s to the end of the first name which appear to be the owner of the second name? Or how we can recognize what names get that s, please?

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    This is probably a better question for ELL, but in short it's because America is a noun and Computer is acting as an adjective here. America can own things, but Computer as an adjective cannot – colinro Jun 18 '14 at 7:37
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    This question would feel better at home on our sister site English Language Learners – oerkelens Jun 18 '14 at 7:38
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    I would say the American flag and not America's flag – mplungjan Jun 18 '14 at 7:45
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    I think this question is suitable here on EL&U and since it was asked here, there is no reason to migrate it. – Kit Z. Fox Jun 18 '14 at 13:12
  • So glad I broke up with s, she was super possessive. And she always had that Apostrophe guy hanging around, too. Still, I hope she doesn't contract something bad from him. – corsiKa Jun 18 '14 at 17:42

That is because computer is used adjectival to science.

You could say that the noun computer "acts as" an adjective.

It is the same thing that happens in other compound nouns, like

history teacher
ticket office
race horse

Actually, the science does not belong to the computer (my computer is unable to show me any science that it possesses!) but rather, the science is about computers.

Whenever in doubt, ask yourself if you are actually expressing ownership. If not, there is no s:

John's store is a candy store. (John owns the store, candy does not own the store.)
Pete's prize is the Nobel Prize. (Pete won the prize, but Nobel gave his name to it)

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  • English didn't always work this way; before 1900 it could have been historical teacher and computational science. See Ngram (but still ticket office and race horse). – Peter Shor Jun 18 '14 at 17:30
  • @oerkelens: Thanks for your answer, but, a question: Consider these two, Government road and Bank's computer. I don't know how to determine which one (Government or Bank) should give that s. – user3724662 Jun 19 '14 at 7:10
  • Does the road belong to the government, or is it named after it? Does "Bank" own the computer, or is it a computer designed in a "Bank" way? – oerkelens Jun 19 '14 at 7:27
  • Why the road doesn't belong to the government!? It does I think. – user3724662 Jun 19 '14 at 7:33
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    Yeah, as in "the government owns everything". But then you shoul name all roads the same. The reason to call it "government road" is not that it belongs to the government, but you name it in honour of the government. Or possibly, because of a major government building being located there. Compare to "Station street". Not owned by the station, but the station is probably somewhere on the street. – oerkelens Jun 19 '14 at 7:37

In the case of Computer Science, the science doesn't belong to a computer. The word "computer" here is being used as a modifier - effectively an adjective - to make the word science more specific.

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Indefinite names don't get possessive s (the ownership s).

Like Computer Science. (Computer is indefinite).

Definite names (like proper names) get possessive s (the ownership s).

Like America's Flag. (America is Definite).


"What about "the cat's pajamas"? – Samuel Edwin Ward"

Me: Well, the cat is definite name, because you use "the" article before that.

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    This isn't the whole answer (which is quite complicated and subtle) but it captures the important point. – Colin Fine Jun 18 '14 at 8:30
  • What about "the cat's pajamas"? – Samuel Edwin Ward Jun 18 '14 at 18:22
  • what about the comment I put under the answer of "oerkelens"? – user3724662 Jun 19 '14 at 7:13

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