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I've read a bit about the reason for using the double possessive but there are still a few aspects that don't work for me:

If the difference between "Joe is a friend of Jim's" and "Joe is a friend of Jim" is the active person (with Jim being active in the first sentence and Joe in the second) then the sentence "Joe is a friend of Jim's" should have the same meaning as "Joe is Jim's friend," and the sentence "Joe is a friend of Jim" should have the same meaning as "Jim is Joe's friend." Using the same logic, the sentence "Joe is my friend" should have the same meaning as "Joe is a friend of mine" and the sentence "I am Joe's friend" should have the same meaning as "Joe is a friend of me," which we would never say. Furthermore, one would never say "Jesus is the son of the Lord's" when they mean "Jesus is the Lord's son;" rather one would say, "Jesus is the son of the Lord."

If the difference between the two is that "Joe is a friend of Jim's" implies that Jim has multiple friends while "Joe is a friend of Jim" does not, then the same issue arises when I try to say "Joe is a friend of mine" without implying that I have multiple friends I say "Joe is a friend of me" which, again, one would never say. Also, you wouldn't say "Jim is an owner of the club's" when you mean "Jim is one of the club's owners."

If two conditions must apply, that is the double possessive can be used only if the word after of refers to an animate object and the word before of involves only a portion of the animate object's possessions, I still can't say "Joe is a friend of me" if Joe is my only friend or "Jim is a friend of him" if Jim is his only friend. Also, can't one say "Joe is the only friend of Jim's?"

Also, I don't want to hear that the second apostrophe is the only way to distinguish between "a picture of the king" and "a picture of the king's." In the sentence "a picture of the king" the of is not a possessive; you can't say "the picture of the king's."

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Edwin Ashworth, Mark Beadles, Janus Bahs Jacquet, Cascabel Apr 4 '17 at 1:37

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    But you can refer to a picture of the king's. It means a picture that the king owns, whereas a picture of the king means a picture that depicts the king. With no apostrophe, a picture of the kings would simply mean a picture depicting more than one king. – FumbleFingers Apr 3 '17 at 20:47
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    @Yosef: But there's usually no such "disambiguation" between He's a friend of Yosef and He's a friend of Yosef's. A few people might say the second version more strongly implies that you have more than one friend, and I suppose a few people might even contest the validity of the second form. But to most people in most contexts, they're interchangeable. – FumbleFingers Apr 3 '17 at 21:10
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    I don't understand what you mean here by "active person" (did you read some explanation that used this term? If so, it would be helpful to have a link to it), but I doubt that it is a relevant consideration in the use of the "double genitive". "Joe" is the subject of both sentences you mention, there is no difference of voice between them. Both mean "Joe is Jim's friend" or "Joe is one of Jim's friends." – sumelic Apr 3 '17 at 21:19
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    @Yosef: And I was trying to offer a compliment to you by "personalising" my next example! :) – FumbleFingers Apr 3 '17 at 21:24
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    @Ilan Katz: I don't know why you keep making such claims. Of course you can! (here's a written example). Syntactically it's no difference to, say, a picture of the children, and there are thousands of those. – FumbleFingers Apr 4 '17 at 15:16
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This has to do with implied plurality.

Joe is Jim's friend.

It is uncertain whether Jim has any other friends besides Joe.

Joe is a friend of Jim's.

It is implied that Jim might have other friends as well.

Jesus is Our Lord's Son.

To indicate that God has no other sons, one might have to use "only": "Jesus is Our Lord's only Son."

However, there's no need for "only" if the definite article is used:

Jesus is the son of God.

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    The first part of your answer is right… the second part isn't. Whether you say X’s son or (the) son of X doesn't make a difference as to how many sons X has. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 '17 at 23:28
  • What about the sentence, "an owner of the club's"? You would never say that. Instead, you would say, "one of the club's owners." – Ilan Katz Apr 4 '17 at 14:30

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