I'm unable figure out which words in a genitive construction are deemed genitive. For example, in the genitive construction "Bill's watch," Bill is the modified noun and watch is the modifying noun, but are they both considered to be in the genitive case, or is only one of the two considered to be in the genitive case (if so, which one)?

Similarly, in the genitive construction "tale of old," old is the modified noun, and tale is the modifying noun. But is only one of these two nouns considered genitive (again, which one?), or are both considered genitive?

My question is thus as follows: how many words in a genitive construction are considered to be in the genitive case? Is it only the word that's being modified, or is the modifier genitive as well? Or is only the modifier in the genitive case?

  • 2
    English has no genitive case. if you use the parallel with German, then in Bill's watch, Bill's is in the genitive case, and watch isn't. But in English, you have horrible constructions like the man behind the curtain's plan. And you certainly don't want to say that curtain is in the genitive case. – Peter Shor Oct 18 at 16:17
  • There's no modification involved here. It's just "Bill's" that is a genitive NP -- it functions as determiner in the NP "Bill's watch", in which "watch" is the 'head' noun. Determiners are not modifiers, they determine, not modify NPs. "Tale of old" is not a genitive NP. "Tale" is the head noun and the PP "of old" is its complement in which "old" is an adjective functioning as complement of "of". – BillJ Oct 18 at 16:27

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