This is one topic that I thought that I have already known well, but sometimes when I am writing a text or something like this it always come up the doubt of what should I use in the sentence to indicate possession. One example (stack in those sentences mean the abstract data type used in computer programming languages):

  1. "The stack's top will have the value "0x3000."
  2. "The top of the stack will have the value "0x3000."

Well, for me both are right. However, I don't know what is the best choice. What's the most "polished" way to say that? Is there a real difference between those two options?

I've already searched the web but I couldn't find any trustful information that I can accept as a good answer to my problem. I saw that when you are relating a parto to a whole you should not use "'s", is this really true?

Is there any good way to remember the cases (or the logic) to use one of those forms?

In the cases that you can use both forms, what is the difference? Is there a informal and a formal way to say, or there is no difference at all?

Please correct any mistakes that I may have made in this text.


1 Answer 1


There certainly is a difference, even if it is subtle sometimes:

  1. The laces of my shoe
  2. My shoe's laces

Subtly, the first sentence emphasises laces a bit more than in the second sentence. This, however, is not a grammatical difference.

  1. The country's culture is much better known in the world than its language.
  2. The culture of the country is much better known in the world than the language of the country.

I think that when you're somewhat constantly referring to a certain object/entity/thing/person, it makes sense to keep your sentences short: sentence 3 is more elegant than sentence 4.


  1. The keychain's keys are dangling in his pocket.
  2. The keys of the keychain are dangling in his pocket.

Here, I would pick sentence 5. Perhaps it also correlates with the metaphorical size of the object in question. A keychain is rather puny, whereas a country is a wholly different matter.

  • I think those are all style differences rather than grammar dictates. Feb 6, 2015 at 23:59
  • Also, I think it's more a matter of idiom than of style. There are certain constructions a native would simply not use. And this may be of importance for good communication.
    – Jimi Oke
    Feb 7, 2015 at 1:06
  • Exactly. Grammatically, I think both are always accepted.
    – lennyklb
    Feb 7, 2015 at 12:11
  • Thank you for the help but I think that I was asking for something more related to gramatical correctness than just "writing styles". I was searching more about it and I could find this website, which is really helpful linguapress.com/grammar/possessives.htm
    – Gabriel R.
    Feb 9, 2015 at 3:09

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