I was told not to use contractions in an essay.
My classmate wrote "the argument of Emily" but I preferred "Emily's argument". He disagreed and claimed "Emily's" is a contraction.
"Emily's" can be a contraction – like when you're saying:
Emily's going with us tomorrow.
However, you've used a possessive, which is not the same thing as a contraction.
Remember, if you've used a contraction, you should be able to split the word back into two:
Emily is going with us tomorrow.
But you can't do that with "Emily's argument."
So, I could say:
Your friend's wrong.
or, I could say:
Your friend's argument is wrong.
but I'd only be using a contraction in the first case.
Well, if one wanted to be very picky, Emily's argument is a contraction of the Old English possessive form
However, unlike the case of something like:
Emily's a nice girl
which would be a contraction of
Emily is a nice girl
the 's is now considered just a suffix and is not really a contraction of any modern English word.
In Old English, -es was the ending of the genitive singular of most strong declension nouns and the masculine and neuter genitive singular of strong adjectives. The ending -e was used for strong nouns with Germanic ō-stems, which constituted most of the feminine strong nouns, and for the feminine genitive singular form of strong adjectives. In Middle English the -es ending was generalised to the genitive of all strong declension nouns. By the sixteenth century, the remaining strong declension endings were generalised to all nouns. The spelling -es remained, but in many words the letter -e- no longer represented a sound. In those words, printers often copied the French practice of substituting an apostrophe for the letter e. In later use, -'s was used for all nouns where the /s/ sound was used for the possessive form, and the -e- was no longer omitted. Confusingly, the -'s form was also used for plural noun forms. These were derived from the strong declension -as ending in Old English. In Middle English, the spelling was changed to -es, reflecting a change in pronunciation, and extended to all cases of the plural, including the genitive. Later conventions removed the apostrophe from subjective and objective case forms and added it after the -s in possessive case forms.
I was taught that adding 's to create the possessive of a proper noun is a contraction of adding the word his. Before this creation of the possessive contraction, "Bob's hat" was expressed "Bob, his hat."
The 's possessive is only properly used with a third person proper noun. This is why instead of it's we have its; instead of I's, my; them's, their; you's, your. This is also why we don't use the 's possessive with inanimate objects; a proper noun is a person, place or organization, not a thing.
That's why it can seem awkward to show the possessive-like relationship between things. We should not say "the car's door," but say "the car door," or construct a seemingly stilted phrase like, "the door of the car."
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