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I think in the following sentence:

Adam's answer was similar to that of clergy.

"That of clergy" can be replaced by "clergy's" or "clergy's answer":

Adam's answer was similar to clergy's.

So, if my understanding is correct, can we say the following two sentences are grammatically equivalent too?

This is my book.
This book is of me.

Since in the first sentence, "of clergy" was indicating possession, I expect "of me" to mean "mine" and indicate another form of possession too.

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4 Answers 4

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That of is unnecessary when the comparison is to a single noun and you can use an apostrophe:

  • Adam's problem is similar to John's.

You can probably also get away with it for a two-word noun phrase:

  • Adam's problem is similar to his friend's.

But you need it for longer noun phrases. So, we don't usually say:

  • Adam's problem is similar to the majority of people in the western world's.

but:

  • Adam's problem is similar to that of the majority of people in the western world.

The following sentence is problematic:

  • Adam's problem is similar to the majority of people in the western world.

because it is not the case that problem and the majority of people in the western world are similar entities.


Addendum:

That is a pronoun whose referent in this case is problem. Of course, if the referent is a plural noun, then that changes to those:

  • Adam's problems are similar to those of the majority of people in the western world.
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    Actually I think the correct grammar would be, "Adam's problem is similar to the majority of people's in the western world." That is, the problem belongs to the people, not to the world. But that's exactly why, as you say, the construction is awkward.
    – Jay
    Mar 20, 2012 at 14:48
  • The apostrophe s version is spoken English, not written English.
    – Lambie
    Jun 6, 2020 at 16:23
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Clergy is normally preceded by the:

Adam's answer was similar to that of the clergy.

You can get rid of the if you add an adverb that indicates place or time:

Adam's answer was similar to that of clergy everywhere.

Yes, you can rephrase your sentence to be

Adam's answer was similar to the clergy's.


Saying "This book is of me" is grammatically correct, it does indicate possession just the same as saying "He is not of this time" meaning he doesn't belong to this time. However, it is a strange construction. It sounds stilted and possibly archaic.

I recommend against using it and would prefer "This book is mine".

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  • +1 I agree absolutely except the "of that" is more formal and written and to the clergy's would not be used when writing. to that=to the one of the clergy.
    – Lambie
    Jun 6, 2020 at 16:15
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Ditto Shoe on the direct answer to your question. But on a side note:

You would not normally say, "This is the book of me." You can say "This is my book", or "This book is mine" or sometimes "This is the book of mine." In English, the possessives of pronouns are special. We don't see "me's book", we say "my book". Likewise we don't say "the book of me" but "the book of mine".

You would almost always say "my book", but the "of mine" form is sometimes used for emphasis. It sounds pretty awkward when you're just identifying a possessive of an object. It's more commonly used when you are qualifying something with an additional noun. Like, "Bob is a friend of mine." "History 201, a class of mine, meets at 2:00." Etc. You could say "Bob is my friend", etc, and it would mean pretty much the same thing, though "is my friend" might mean that he is your only friend, while "is a friend" indicates there could be others. There might be other subtle differences in context.

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  • Why say you would not normally say? Why not say it is not grammatical....
    – Lambie
    Jun 6, 2020 at 16:13
  • @Lambie There are many combinations of words that are grammatically valid, but are not things that fluent speakers commonly say. You can often recognize that someone is not a native English speaker because they put together words that make grammatically valid sentences, but that are just not the way that native speakers talk or write. (Let me hasten to add, not to say that this makes them stupid. I may laugh at a Chinese person's awkward English, but it's a good-natured laugh, because he knows a whole lot more English than I know Chinese (which is none).)
    – Jay
    Jun 8, 2020 at 14:52
  • I really am not in need of receiving information on what grammatical means. In this case, the phrase is simply not grammatical. This is not a case of: It is grammatical but a native speaker would not say it. Had that been the case, I would have pointed that out. Also, what is grammatical is the structure: This or that book of mine [etc.] That brother of his [etc.] (both written forms) which you do not even mention...
    – Lambie
    Jun 8, 2020 at 15:41
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Matt, But saying "This book is of me" indicates as if the book is a part of me, i.e, of my body. So, it's therefore logically not correct. However, saying "He is not of this time" indicates he doesn't belong to this time(he's not a part of this time). So, it's correct.

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    I do not think that "This book is of me" is correct. "Of me" is an adjunct - adjectival prepositional modifier - it cannot appear as a predicative complement in the sense required - The predicative complement is the possessive pronoun, "mine". "Of" only rarely indicates possession - it more commonly indicates some association that the context makes clear. (Compare "This book is of some antiquity" "The carvings are of a god." "She wore shoes of the finest leather.")
    – Greybeard
    Jun 6, 2020 at 16:27
  • @Mohammad It looks as if you have a question to ask, why not do it in it's own thread,; that'll certainly be better addressed than as a comment. Jun 6, 2020 at 17:23
  • Graybeard, your explanation is quite enlightening for me. But, could you tell me if "of your own home" in the sentence below is considered as some association that the context makes clear in "Are you looking to learn English in the comfort of your own home? We have a wide range of online English classes and courses."
    – Mohammad
    Jun 6, 2020 at 17:26
  • "This arm/leg/eye is of me" are equally unacceptable. Sep 23, 2020 at 13:43

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