Let's go straight forward, the subject is NOT using 's or of, but why sometime we should show possession/ownership using 's or of, why sometime not ?


  • The family name = the name of the family = the family's name
  • The dog's leg = the leg of the dog
  • The object property = the property of the object = the object's property
  • A recipe example = an example of recipe = a recipe's example

Which are right or wrong ? Could we omit 's in informal language ? When ?

What would be acceptable in a more complex sentence like:

The object property's value must be defined

The value of the object's property must be defined

The object's property's value must be defined

The object property value must be defined

To be honest I feel that these apostrophes are very useless most of the time. So how to be as clear, concise and valid as possible ?


As your suggested alternatives indicate, there are any number of ways of showing ownership, both specifically and generally by simply subtracting an 's or adding a couple of words (as in "the dog's leg" or "the leg of the dog").

Your phrase "the family name" is perfectly fine. It has a formal ring to it (at least to my ear). The "family's name" is perhaps more apt when someone asks you

So, what is the family's name?

And then you say,

The family's name is Smith.

On the other hand, if someone asks you,

Why does Roger pronounce his surname so distinctly and clearly?

And you say,

Oh, that's because he wants to preserve the family name in perpetuity.

I have a problem with your following two sentences:

The value of the object's property must be defined

The object's property's value must be defined.

I think what you are trying to say is the following:

The value of the property must be defined.

The object's property value must be defined.

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