The clause or sentence, "That was kind of you," uses what seems like a genitive case "of you", but I'm not sure what type of genitive it should be considered.

The form of the answer I'm looking for is "CASE: case-use", i.e. "Genitive: apposition" or "Genitive: genitive nominative" or "Genitive: subject".


  1. Nouns in English fall into one of five commonly-accepted "cases": Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, and Vocative. The preposition "of" usually allies with Genitive, and I think it would be Genitive here since it is a matter of the nature, substance, and origin for "of you". If I'm wrong, please say so.

  2. But, Genitive nouns can be used different ways. A cup "of water" is about contents or substance, being "Genitive: Substance" or "Genitive: Contents". We talked "about you" treats "you" as a direct object, but it has a Genitive way of being in the sentence, so it would be "Genitive: Direct Object". What would be the use here?

I would think it would be a "Genitive: Subject" because "That was kind of you" technically has "that" as the subject, but "you" is the word who actually was the subject of whatever action was deemed kind.

As for the "close" vote that wanted more research, I consider that an "elaboration", but if it's all the same, can the community please weigh in on the actual question and share knowledge please? If not, is it alright if I answer the question myself. Please what does everyone think?

I later edited to include, to be complete in background: These "5 noun cases" I refer to may be seen in English Grammar for Language Students by Frank Xavier Braun, but his explanation was brief, which is why I ask here. TY all for helping me clarify my very first question on this forum!

  • @sumelic Not relevant on two levels: 1. my question was not about the word "kind", 2. that post doesn't discuss the noun case for "of you" whatsoever.
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 7:38
  • Okay, I'm glad you want to be helpful. The sentence form is the same pattern and it might be interested to others searching. But to be clear, we both agree that my question is not a DUP (duplicate). :-)
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 7:41
  • Okay, I can help with that research, but I don't see the comment or reason to be able to respond to it. Is it because I'm a new contributor?
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 7:49
  • 3
    You've gone off 'half-cocked', I'm afraid. There's no vocative or dative case in English. The main distinction is between genitive and plain case (Kim's vs Kim). And a few pronouns have distinct nominative and accusative cases (e.g. I vs me) instead of a plain case. In a cup of water, of water is not genitive, but a PP serving ascomplement of "cup".
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 8:35
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    Ah. Based on the summaries I can find online, it sounds like the approach taken in that booklet is aimed more at preparing you to use these kinds of terms when you are learning a language where they are necessary (like Latin, German or Russian), rather than teaching you the terms that are most useful for explaining English grammar as an independent topic.
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


In "kind of you", "you" is (apparently) an "experiencer NP"

According to "Predicate-Argument Structure of English Adjectives", by Akira Ikeya, the prepositional phrase headed by of in an adjective phrase like "kind of you" expresses the "thematic dimension" of the adjective, and has the thematic role of "experiencer" (

I found another post on this site that also seems to suggest that the object of "of" in these contexts might be categorized as an "experiencer NP": John Lawler's answer to the question "How does the to infinitive work with adjectives like “wrong” and “wise”?.

The predicate adjectives (be) wrong and (be) wise are flip psychological predicates, which means they have an experiencer argument, which may be the subject, as in the first sentences above.

But the experiencer NP can also be expressed as the object of a preposition (of with these predicates) [...] This experiencer NP is coreferential here with the subject of [a following] infinitive clause.

I'm pretty mystified by the meaning of "experiencer" in this context: I would guess that it is some kind of jargon, since it doesn't make much intuitive sense to me to call the person who is being kind an "experiencer". But maybe you will be able to find some explanation if you look at some more sources that use this term.

There may be some more relevant information in "Syntax and Semantics of of in the Construction "It is A(djective) of NP to VP"-Synchronic and Diachronic Approaches", by Fuminori Matsubara (2000). Matsubara agrees with CGEL (quoted in Shoe's answer) in classifying the "of" prepositional phrase in this construction as a complement of the preceding adjective (p. 72).

Matsubara says

we can summarize the semantic characteristics of of and the relation between the adjective and of NP in this construction, as in (26) and (27), respectively:

(26) The core meaning of of:
Of denotes Provenance and Inherence of something characterized by an adjective.

(27) The relation between the adjective and of NP:
Of NP is selected by the preceding adjective as its complement.

(p. 79)

The idea that of denotes "Provenance and Inherence" is attributed to "Hosoe (1942: 35, fn. 1/103, fn. 1)"; the cited source is given as "Hosoe, I. (1942) An Advanced English Syntax, Taibundo, Tokyo."

There seem to be references to other relevant papers in section 2.1.1. of The Description of Adjectives for Natural Language Processing: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives. I particularly want to get my hands on "Arnold, D., Theoretical and descriptive issues in machine Translation, Phd dissertation, University of Essex, 1989" and "Silva, G. and S.A. Thompson, “On the syntax of adjectives with ‘it’ subject and infinitival complements in English”, in : Studies in Language, 1:1, 1977, pp. 109-126," but I haven't yet.

Other adjectives like kind

The prepositional phrase "of you" acts as the complement of the adjective "kind" in the sentence "That was kind of you". The grammar of complements often depends on the identity of the head word, so I think that it would help to look at the grammar of the adjective kind.

There are a number of other adjectives that behave similarly to "kind", and I am familiar with some literature on this category of adjectives that I summarize in my answer to the question "Is the sentence “Queueing is so thoughtful of you.” grammatically correct?"

Based on the literature that I have been able to find so far, there seems to have been more interest in explaining how the adjective and prepositional phrase relate to a following to-infinitive (as in "It was kind of you to do that") than in explaining how the of-prepositional phrase functions.

Why I avoided using the term "genitive" in this answer

A side point: I think I would disagree about modern English having five cases. That analysis seems overly based on the grammar of other European languages. No English word has a distinct vocative form, or a dative form that is distinct from the accusative form. Furthermore, the functions that are carried out by the "genitive" form in other languages are divided among several distinct constructions in English: e.g. our, ours, of us, of ours. So I would call "of you" a prepositional phrase (headed by the preposition of) and avoid calling it any kind of genitive.

I don't think this really affects the substance of your question much, if at all: I have just treated it as equivalent to the question "what kind of prepositional phrase is 'of you'?"

  • I edited to make mention of Braun's book after this answer was posted, so I like the dissenting opinion against "genitive", don't edit it out! When I mentioned "commonly-accepted cases", I meant that, if we talk about noun case in English, then teachers and scholars generally prefer to use only five, plus the "oblique" case (personal pronouns as objects). I did not at all mean that that noun case is the favorite of the English community, not at all. I asked about of you because I wanted community opinion, and I got it. Thanks, respect, and cheers to all who helped with my first question!
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 16:13

Why the term "genitive": The term genitive is used to express possession or association, among other relationships. So, for example, possessive or associative utterances such as some friends of yours, that dog of John's are variously called double genitives, post genitives or oblique genitive constructions (Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar, p178).

Elaboration on using the word "kind": The Cambridge Grammar Of The English Language lists the phrase very kind of you in the section headed The structure of AdjPs (adjective phases), subsections Complementation > PP (Prepositional Phrase) complements > Adjective + of (p544).

The section includes numerous other adjectives that license a post-head complement with of: for example, careless, considerate, generous, silly, etc. The CGEL notes:

(These adjectives) commonly occur in combination with it + exposed subject, as in It was very kind of you to wash the dishes, alternating with a construction with a personal subject: You were very kind to wash the dishes.

  • This seems like relevant background information, but I don't know if it answers the question. I posted (and then deleted) a comment that talked about the existence of other adjectives that can act like kind, but this wasn't what Jesse Steele was looking for. I don't have access to CGEL right now, but does it say anything about the role/function of the "of NP" complement in such structures? That seems like the closest thing to "case" that I can think of. Calling it a "complement" seems accurate but "complement" is a pretty vague term, isn't it?
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 8:54
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    @sumelic. You may be right about it not answering the question. I saw your answer (which more directly addresses the issue of cases) just as I had finished constructing my own. I was not sure even whether to post my answer but decided that it might have useful additional information.(OP can tell us!) But I particularly wanted to dispel the notion that we are dealing with a genitive here. The CGEL, as far as I can see, includes no additional information about the role/function of NP complements. I would have thought that PP complement is sufficient.
    – Shoe
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 9:03
  • @sumelic My own nose is only just above the water here. Thanks to your answer I've learned about experiencer NPs for the first time.
    – Shoe
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 9:11
  • I really appreciate this info and will say more when I am not on my phone. But, this does directly address the second part of my question. "of you" seems very sinilar to a predicate nominative or predicate adjective, and this really helps inform that. Thank you for being bold to post; though it may not be direct, it is very relevant and informative.
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 9:52

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