Stack Exchange Network

Stack Exchange network consists of 175 Q&A communities including Stack Overflow, the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.

Visit Stack Exchange
97

The word "whose" is used in several different grammatical ways. For some of these (see my original answer below), it has been grammatical to use it for inanimate objects, at least since the days of Shakespeare. For others (see my update), it is only used for people or animals. ORIGINAL ANSWER: Many people seem to believe that you cannot use whose for ...


84

Resistentialism Resistentialism is a jocular theory to describe "seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects", where objects that cause problems (like lost keys or a runaway bouncy ball) are said to exhibit a high degree of malice toward humans.


33

English whose is somewhat like Latin cuius or Spanish cuyo in that it is strictly a function word. It is just fine for anything at all. You cannot use which there. However, it does make a difference whether you use whose as a relative pronoun or as an interrogative pronoun. This one is ok: These are the fires whose fuel needs replenishing. But this ...


25

A few views from usage guides: From Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (1994): A few commentators take note of the conventional usage in which she and her are used to refer to certain things as if personified--nations, ships, mechanical devices, nature, and so forth. The origin of the practice is obscure. The OED has evidence from the ...


24

There is a bias against the genitive case with inanimate things, that is sometimes found in advice to avoid it in some cases. In some cases that advice is indeed, that one should only use it with people and sometimes that one should only use it with living things. (So "the dog's" is allowed, but "the car's" is not). Fowler raged against it, and blamed ...


14

The usual subject of 'claim' would indeed reference an agent. However, it is not a vast step from Dietitians claim that co-enzyme 534, found in aardvark milk, makes waists hairier. to This article / magazine claims that co-enzyme 534, found in aardvark milk, makes waists hairier. (short for the authors / editors of this article / magazine ...


12

Wilson Follett, Modern American Usage (1966) vigorously opposes applying a possessive 's to an inanimate thing (as in "this blog's existence"), calling such possessives "false" and concluding that "we must stick to the ancestral rule which, with a few exceptions, reserves possessives in 's for ownership by a person." Shoe's answer cites a similar (though ...


11

The Oxford English Dictionary’s third definition of the verb claim is: Of things: To call for, demand, or require; to be entitled to, deserve, have a right to. The earliest citation is this from Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’: Octauia . . . whose beauty claimes No worse a husband then the best of men. Other citations in which the ...


11

Michael Swan writes in Practical English Usage (2005.441-2) "With nouns which are not the names of people, animal, countries, etc, 's is less common, and a structure with a preposition (usually of) is more common." However, he adds "... both structures are possible in some expressions. [..] Unfortunately it is not possible to give useful general rules in ...


9

You can use 'whose' but not 'who' with things. 'Which' does not have a possessive. You cannot say 'the house which's chimneys are red'; for 'which's' doesn't exist. Somebody like John Lawler or Edwin Ashworth may be able to explain why. It is perfectly alright to use 'whose' in the context in which you have shown it. My assumption that the reason for that ...


9

The only well-established custom in the US is to use "she" for boats that are large enough to be named. (Generally a canoe or small rowboat would be "it".) Beyond that it's the habit of some men to use "she" for pieces of machinery (eg, a car or tractor) for which they have some fondness (or, occasionally, disdain). And similarly, women occasionally use ...


8

“Animates vs. Inanimates”           trumps the “Battle of the Sexes” You should not think of Japan as “female” just because she was used. This is a misunderstanding. English does not use gender as an abstract grammatical category in a way that closely corresponds to how gender is sometimes used in some (but not all) of English’s neighboring languages. ...


8

Historically, "her" was commonly used as a pronoun for not only women, but also for both countries and ships (e.g. sailing vessels). However, that usage has more or less fallen out of favor, and instead "its" has become the preferred pronoun. Nevertheless, you'll still see "she" or "her" used depending on the preferences of the author. http://www....


8

When I was a child, all of the hurricanes in my part of the world (the coast of the Gulf of Mexico) were given female names. One powerful hurricane whose eye passed over the city where I was living (Corpus Christi, Texas) inspired Lightning Hopkins's blues song "Hurricanes Carla and Esther," which identifies the hurricane itself as Carla and an associated ...


7

There's no problem with the usage you mention: "whose" can have both inanimate or animate referents (and there's no such form "which's"). Don't get confused into thinking that "whose" is just some weird spelling of "who's": its meaning and syntax are different. As for a grammatical label, there's no single "proper" grammatical label: it depends on the ...


7

It is in American English - according to Mr Webster himself! A philosophical and practical grammar of the English language By Noah Webster I suppose in BE the 'correct' form might be: "the dynamics of which I wanted to explore" - but that sounds like you you are trying to be German.


7

"Whose" is also used to refer to a component of something inanimate and your original is perfectly grammatical. I wonder if you're inventing a problem where there isn't one. If you think using "whose" sounds a bit too formal, you could say e.g. "A camera with wires going through the wall", which would maybe be what people would say in everyday spontaneous ...


6

Metaphor pervades scientific language as much as it does non-technical language. See Lakoff's work, eg here. I can't put my finger on a specific work linked to metaphors in science and technical language, but that should give you a starting point for further research.


6

This is a middle voice construction. Read "...dietary supplement claims to treat..." as "...dietary supplement is claimed to treat...". Compare the two following sentences, the first containing a middle voice construction and the second passive voice: The recliner breaks down into a loveseat and ottoman to meet your family's needs. The recliner is/can ...


6

Wiktionary lists such usage as "formerly proscribed". Presumably this means some would still proscribe it, and others consider it correct. Personally I have no problem with it, though I would probably say the following: We lit a fire for which the fuel was old timber wood. Or, better yet: We lit a fire, using old timber wood for fuel.


5

As I’ve said in answer to a related question, it’s misleading to think of the apostrophe exclusively as a possessive marker. It’s more helpful to think of it as a genitive inflection, certainly capable of expressing possession (John’s car), but also used to specify or classify the reference of a noun (the girl’s face, a bird’s nest or, indeed, the car’s ...


5

NGrams charts also show that companies which do is currently more frequent than companies who do in British English, but that the opposite is the case in American English. Corpus evidence confirms these trends. The British National Corpus gives 335 returns for companies which and 177 for companies who. The Corpus of Contemporary American English gives 111 ...


4

humorous meaning - from OED, indeed, resistentialism means: The theory that inanimate objects are hostile to humans; hostility manifested by inanimate objects. Originally in the works of Paul Jennings. 1948 P. Jennings in Spectator 23 Apr. 491/1 Resistentialism is a philosophy of tragic grandeur... Resistentialism derives its name from its central ...


4

If the question is what pronoun(s) should be used for inanimate objects in professional writing (journalism, academic writing, etc.), then the answer is "it." For reference, the Associated Press Stylebook (2011) specifically names ships and countries as nouns that should not be referred to as "she," rather "it" is the correct word. Regarding the second ...


3

The use of whose is not limited to people. Mr. Waits said he had heard Mr. Kaczynski cursing the dogs, whose barking may have betrayed his location in the woods. - the New York Times Whose is not limited to people. The cab drew up at the house whose windows were lit up. - Virginia Wolfe The sun whose light we sail upon: A blazing summer ...


3

As an American English speaker for almost 6 decades, I have never heard this rule, nor does it make much intuitive sense. The examples given all seem entirely appropriate current usage.


3

If who is used, the scope of the answer gets reduces to a specific person in particular. Otherwise it has wider scope. So what will be the proper answer.


3

You have submitted a lengthy question, but what it boils down to is, in door won't budge and husband won't budge, whether the won't (short for will not), in each case, has the same meaning. All I would say is that we often ascribe human volition, not only with will, to inanimate things e.g. the car won't start, my computer has lost all its memory, my oven ...


3

Generally, I would say yes. Tom's computer Word's spell checker Grammatically speaking, there is no difference between these examples. However, specific to the context of software, the possessive is often omitted. Microsoft Windows, not Microsoft's Windows the Word spell checker, not Word's spell checker the Notepad++ plugin manager, not Notepad++'s ...


2

Today, both expressions are in popular use. After a long period of vacillation, we seem to be now increasingly in favor of companies who (do sth.) over companies which (do sth.) which in this case has already lost to who in AmE. BrE could be following the AmE trend in a way, though not yet quite there. The choice, though could very ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible