I got two questions regarding the usage of the preposition 'of.'

First is when we say 'a house of cards' do we mean either of or only one of the following?:

  1. I am referring to a house made of cards
  2. I am referring to a house that belongs to cards, metaphorically speaking.

1 or 2 or either 1 or 2?

Second question is that when we say 'a cup of coffee,' I am referring to a cup that contains coffee; then the question is whether or not the preposition "of" in "a cup of coffee" works the same way as the "of" in, for example, "Such a jerk of a guy!" or "both of you."

I reckon either 1 or 2 is correct depending on the context; the 'of' in 'a cup of coffee' works the same as when you say "a picture of a bear" looking at a picture that shows a bear.

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  • 1
    How can a house belong to cards even if it is a metaphor? Have you seen such a house? – user140086 Mar 12 '16 at 8:28
  • House of cards is also a well-known idiom. Native speakers know the meaning of the rehtorical phrase. A "house of glass", will say it is made of glass, but a "house of Glass" might infer that a person called Glass owns this home. – Mari-Lou A Mar 12 '16 at 8:37
  • Imagine politicians are cards; cards used by bankers by means of money to govern the nation. That is what I meant by that. The "house of Glass" example is also possible too. – user165036 Mar 12 '16 at 8:50
  • Do you know what cards means in "house of cards"? Are you referring to "credit cards" when you said they are used by bankers? You are overthinking this word. – user140086 Mar 12 '16 at 9:08
  • Playing cards, of course, but I agree with you in that it is going too far maybe to treat the phrase as something meaning a house owned by cards. – user165036 Mar 12 '16 at 10:22

The preposition of can express a lot of different relationships. Some have special names such as partitive genitive (a cup of coffee, how much of what), others have no standard name.

Longman's DCE lists 25 relationships expressed by of. http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/of

See also: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genitive_case

  • The partitive genitive. I did not know of that word. Thanks for the feedback. – user165036 Mar 12 '16 at 10:27

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