I was asked to clarify why we say today's lesson or tomorrow's world if by it's very nature possessive only applies to those who possess and therefore it should be theoretically today lesson.

  • 2
    The point is that the so-called "possessive" does not necessarily have anything to do with possessing. It's better to use the term "genitive" for nouns that carry the -' marking
    – BillJ
    Mar 24, 2017 at 7:41

1 Answer 1


Not only people possess. Things possess: the land's resources, the moon's gravity. In this case, today "possesses" many things, including a lesson that didn't occur yesterday and won't occur tomorrow. Even abstract nouns can possess: e.g., "Freedom's ring."

In a logical arrangement, you can think of the possessed object as a subset of the possessor. John might be just John, or he could be the set of John and all his things, and John's hat is an element of that set, the hat of John, the hat sub-object that belongs to the set of John and his things. Hence, the lesson of today, today's lesson, to world of tomorrow, tomorrow's world.

if by it's very nature possessive only applies to those who possess

If that were the case, we'd have his and hers but not its.

  • Genitives like this are called "Descriptive Genitives", a somewhat unproductive category of genitive in that some are fine, e.g. "A summer's day", but not *"An Autumn's day".
    – BillJ
    Mar 24, 2017 at 7:30
  • So BillJ it would sound natural to say "a summer's day" but not "an autumn's day", do I understand you correctly? Mar 24, 2017 at 8:49
  • @elisabetta smith Yes, that's right. Consider also, "a ship's doctor" and "fisherman's cottages" which are both fine, but "a school's doctor" and "country's cottages" which are unacceptable to most people. Strange isn't it?
    – BillJ
    Mar 24, 2017 at 16:24
  • "The country's cottages suffered from the heavy snows."
    – q23.us
    Mar 24, 2017 at 17:31
  • "A school's doctor ought to concern himself with hazards on the athletic fields."
    – q23.us
    Mar 24, 2017 at 17:40

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