I was trying to write “I was using the lecture's flow of logic”, as to say that I was following the logic that was in the lecture. But I am corrected by a spell-checker.

I tried to google it, but this leads me to another much more silly question. How do you call that “..'s” that designates ownership / association? I really did try to google it, but since “'s” is such a bad search term, and any formation for "What do you call that 's you add to designate ownership" I could think of, yielded anything but the answer I was looking for.

So my question is twofold.

  1. What is the name of that 's thing? I guess it is not the "ownership 's" :) Is it perhaps called officially the ‘possessive s’?

  2. Is saying "lecture's" (pertaining to the lecture) valid English grammar? Or is it valid grammar but people just don't say it this way?

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    It's called apostrophe s or possessive s and has been the source of years of argument between grammarians and style advisors. – michael_timofeev Nov 22 '15 at 4:53
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    Your spell checker is clearly defective. – Peter Shor Nov 22 '15 at 4:57
  • Interestingly, I'd go with the spell-checker on this one, even though it's not detected a full-blown 'error'. For reasons of style. The correct usage of possessive s is still not agreed upon by all writers. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 22 '15 at 9:29
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    @EdwinAshworth interestingly, when I looked online to see if there were examples of "lecture's" I couldn't find many and Google kept trying to change my search query to "lecturer's". I did find examples where the 's was a contraction of "is": "The lecture's at eight in Williams Hall." – michael_timofeev Nov 23 '15 at 7:56
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    Why the downvote? The question's quality is lacking? :) – Eran Medan Nov 23 '15 at 8:28

Should possessive 's be used when there is no possession in the strict ('this is John's property') sense involved, and / or especially when the 'possessor' is non-sentient?

Achilles tendon [mythical(?)/sentient(?) referent; association not true possession]

travellers cheques [generic sentient referents; association]

the tree's roots [non-sentient referent; non-legal 'possession?']

the programme's cancellation [non-sentient referent; association]

Grammar.ccc.com gives a balanced view as regards non-sentient referents:

Many writers consider it bad form to use apostrophe -s possessives with pieces of furniture and buildings or inanimate objects in general. Instead of "the desk's edge" (according to many authorities), we should write "the edge of the desk" and instead of "the hotel's windows" we should write "the windows of the hotel." In fact, we would probably avoid the possessive altogether and use the noun as an attributive: "the hotel windows." This rule (if, in fact, it is one) is no longer universally endorsed. [Actually, in certain cases, it sounds more natural to do the opposite.] We would not say "the radio of that car" instead of "that car's radio" (or the "car radio") and we would not write "the desire of my heart" instead of "my heart's desire." Writing "the edge of the ski" would probably be an improvement over "the ski's edge," however.

For expressions of time and measurement, the possessive is shown with an apostrophe -s: "one dollar's worth," "two dollars' worth," "a hard day's night," "two years' experience," "an evening's entertainment," and "two weeks' notice" (the title of the Hollywood movie nothwithstanding).

Notice that judgement calls for reasons of style are endorsed by the article; this is where the true grey areas, the ones worth considering, now lie.


Non-ownership by sentient beings / groups of such has been discussed before (working mens/men's clubs; dogs/dogs' homes; writers/writers' guilds ...).

With dead man's handle, I'd just take the apostrophe as part of the idiom. With nine days wonder, the trend seems generally towards the dropping of the 'associative rather than true possessive' apostrophe-s, but this is not the only practice followed.


1. What is the name of that 's thing? I guess it is not the "ownership 's" :) Is it perhaps called officially the ‘possessive s’?

Consider calling it a genitive marker.

The suffix -'s on nouns is a marker of genitive case in English. - What is the Genitive Case? by Richard Nordquist

2. Is saying "lecture's" (pertaining to the lecture) valid English grammar? Or is it valid grammar but people just don't say it this way?

Yes, it's valid. There is an odd notion (odd to me, anyway) that the -'s form should not be used for inanimate nouns:

The possessive form can sound strange if you use it to talk about things that aren't alive (inanimate objects). ... A table is not alive, so it sounds strange to say 'the table's leg is broken'. - The English Space

The Chigago Manual of Style Online is almost derisive about this:

Q. I’m trying to find a definitive answer to whether an inanimate object can take the possessive form. I have been told that an object cannot possess something, so the ’s form should not be used. Instead of “the vehicle’s speed,” it should be “the speed of the vehicle.” I understand the rule, but can’t find anything here to support it.

A. We seem to be having a run on questions that turn on the issue of literal word usage. But let’s think about it. If a table can’t “have” legs, where does this leave us? True, the table is probably not conscious that it possesses legs, but then does that mean it doesn’t truly possess them? If a table possesses legs in the forest, where there’s no one to see them . . . oh, wait—that’s another riddle. Seriously, I’d love to know who makes up these rules, seemingly just to drive everyone crazy. Don’t worry—your vehicle can have speed, and there’s no difference between the speed of the vehicle and the vehicle’s speed (or “vehicle speed,” if you prefer to avoid the controversy).

- The Chicago Manual of Style Online


use of the apostrophe to mean a feature of something:

"Apostrophes showing possession You use an apostrophe to show that "a thing" or person belongs or "relates to" someone or "something": instead of saying the party of Ben or the weather of yesterday, you can write Ben’s party and yesterday’s weather."


So, a story can have (possess) a logical flow. An argument can have (possess) a logical flow.

Ergo, by that rule, the meaning of the phrase a story's logical flow is simply not arcane.

And the phrase: the flow of logic of the story would be edited to that by any good English-language editor. Two ofs is not great.

Another example: the content of abstraction of philosophy

Philosophy's abstract content.....

[for some odd reason, when I try to bold here, it does not appear in the text so I have to use quotation marks instead.]

  1. I have always called it apostrophe s (in the very few situations where it needed a label).

  2. As a question of style, inanimate objects usually do not take apostrophe s - that form of possession is reserved just for people as owners of something (with a possible inclusion of animals - such as "the bird's wing"), so "the flow of logic in the lecture" is more elegant.

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    Would you say "a wonder of nine days" is a more elegant version? "The offside rear bumper of the car" or "the batteries of the torch" more colloquial? I'd agree that your choice is better here, because of the formal register involved, but not with the over-generalisation. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 22 '15 at 9:19
  • I would simply say "nine day wonder" or "nine-day wonder" - they are the idiomatic forms. While "The offside rear bumper of the car" would be tautologous in most contexts. Torch batteries, and the list goes on - car radio, hotel windows. Even "two weeks notice" is more than acceptable - the apostrophe s adds nothing and just looks untidy and similarly for "six years experience". – Cargill Nov 24 '15 at 6:18
  • No; "nine days' wonder" is also idiomatic. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms, M-W, CDO, AHDEL. But never "a wonder of nine days". / 'in most contexts' is invalid here; what about in "the truck wasn't damaged, but the ..." /. Yes, attributive nouns are often the best solution, but not a better alternative to "my heart's desire". Or "the bike's rear suspension system doesn't really eliminate torque reaction from the shaft drive" [Cycle World Magazine]. The Grammar.ccc article [below] gives a more balanced and less broad-brush approach. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 24 '15 at 12:21
  • ... I've checked Google Ngrams for "nine days' wonder" versus "nine day wonder" etc and would say that your comment is incorrect rather than opinionated. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 24 '15 at 12:25
  • If incorrect means in common usage that Google Book Ngrams misses, then I guess that could be the case, but "nine day wonder" is idiomatic in speech, and consistent, where there is no plural or assoc / poss s added, as in "three(-)week trip". I would go so far as to say that I have never heard "nine days(') wonder" at all. – Cargill Nov 24 '15 at 22:37

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