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This sentence: "Today's my breakfast" means: "Today is my breakfast"

But if it is written like: "My today's breakfast" it would mean: "The breakfast I eat today" (literal). "Today" then acts as an adjective in the sentence, right?

Can a possessive adjective come before an adjective (such as listing adjectives: big, wooden, colorful chair)? Or is "today" in all of these sentences acting as a different part of speech?

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    Yes: Today's newest question is this one. – Barmar Jan 21 '16 at 1:10
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    And a possessive ordinarily acts as a determiner, preceding any adjectives. – StoneyB Jan 21 '16 at 1:13
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    Does anyone else think "My today's breakfast" is ungrammatical? We can attribute a meaning to it, but only after pragmatic re-interpretation... I think you need a better example of "today" as an adjective. "Today's paper" doesn't work because here adding the possessive simply turns "today" into a determiner, not an adjective. – GoldenGremlin Jan 27 '16 at 13:21
  • "Today's" can mean two different things -- the "possession" of "today", or a contraction of "today is". They are not the same. The first acts as an adjective, while the second is a noun-verb pair. – Hot Licks Jan 27 '16 at 21:48
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    @Silenus - Well, there was no such thing as a "determiner" when I was in 8th grade. – Hot Licks Jan 27 '16 at 22:23
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+200

When "today's" is taken to be a possessive rather than a contraction of "today is", the construction "My today's breakfast" is not grammatical.

It is possible to interpret it as meaning the same as "The breakfast I eat today", but this interpretation is only possible after a pragmatic re-interpretation.

"today's" is not occurring in this construction as an adjective.

In fact, "today's" is never an adjective. Adding the possessive to a noun (or, more accurately, a noun phrase) turns it into a determiner. Determiners are words like articles ('the' and 'a'), quantifiers (for example, 'all' and 'some'), possessives (for example, 'my' and 'your', sometimes misleadingly called possessive adjectives) and demonstratives (for example, 'this' and 'those') and they introduce or determine nouns.

Thus "today's" is a determiner, not an adjective.

All of the following are examples of determiners coming before the word "breakfast":

  • The breakfast
  • Some breakfast
  • My breakfast
  • John's breakfast
  • Today's breakfast

Adjectives can come between a determiner and a noun, as evinced by

  • The tasty breakfast
  • Some tasty breakfast
  • My tasty breakfast
  • John's tasty breakfast
  • Today's tasty breakfast

But only certain very special combinations of determiner's can occur together (for example "all" + "that" becomes "all that"). For the most part, determiners never occur next to one another, as evinced by the markedness of

  • *The a breakfast
  • *Some this breakfast
  • *John's your breakfast
  • *Some today's breakfast

This is why your example of "My today's breakfast" sounds wrong. Because both "my" and "today's" are determiners. And most determiners don't play well together.

If you just want to know what can come between a possessive determiner like "my" and a noun like "chair," the answer is any number of adjectives, even a list. For example, "My big, wooden, colorful chair."

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    What about the case of something like "my dog's breakfast," or any case denoting the possession of a possession? Applying the structure of something like "my dog's breakfast and my cat's breakfast" to the OP's example would result in something like "my today's breakfast and my yesterday's breakfast," which is admittedly awkward but has a clear meaning. Even flipping the order of "John's your breakfast" to "your John's breakfast" gives it a unique meaning which could not otherwise be expressed. – Myron Jan 28 '16 at 20:54
  • @Myron, Possessives can be applied to more than just "names" like "John" and "today". They can be applied to full noun phrases (that is, a determiner plus a noun) like "the dog" and "my dog", resulting in "the dog's" and "my dog's". But it is important to note that the possessive is here being applied to the whole noun phrase, not just the word "dog." The reason it doesn't work for "my today's" is because the pseudo noun phrase "my today" is not grammatical (at least to my ear). – GoldenGremlin Jan 28 '16 at 21:00
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    That makes sense, the part that initially didn't click for me was the grouping of "my ___'s" as a single descriptor of the subject, rather than having two levels. You're right, when interpreted in that way, "my today's breakfast" breaks down due to the inclusion of "my today." – Myron Jan 28 '16 at 21:10
  • I must admit I don't like my today's paper in at least one of those 68 written instances (where it clearly references the [academic] paper which I'm presenting today), but I have no problem with the usage where it means my copy of today's newspaper. In short, if you insist on classifying today's paper as a (possessive) determiner rather than an "adjectival" usage, I think you have to allow that multiple determiners are valid. But in practice I think (some) people use it that way because they see it as adjectival. – FumbleFingers Feb 2 '16 at 14:39
  • @Myron: I think you are mistaken. To the extent that my today's breakfast can be seen as "valid", it requires that today's breakfast be a contextually meaningful concept (for example, you and your interlocutor are both staying at different hotels that each offer a "today's (chef's special) breakfast" that changes from day to day. Then you can "stack" another determiner, and refer to your today's breakfast (as distinct from my today's breakfast). – FumbleFingers Feb 2 '16 at 14:47

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