« PreviousContinue »
possessive case is so called, because it implies possession or ownership on the part of the individual for which it is a name of that thing represented by the noun by which it is governed.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE POSSESSIVE CASE. 1. Many sorts of words in the Classical languages govern the possessive case. In the English, this species of government belongs exclusively to nouns; that is, no word but a noun can cause another noun to be used in the possessive
A noun can cause a pronoun to be used in the possessive - as, his throne ; but the principle at work here is the same as that already enunciated ; as his, in the above example, is only a substitute for some noun, and, as such, necessarily governed in the same manner as the noun would be, if expressed, for which it stands.
2. The possessive case is the complement of the noun with which it is connected. This complement may be changed into a prepositional phrase, consisting of the preposition of, and the complement changed from the possessive to the objective case: thus—“ The Queen's throne" = “ The throne of the Queen ;" from which it appears, that, when the possessive complement is used, it comes before the governing word; when the prepositional complement is used, it follows; and that this prepositional complement is the grammatical equivalent for the possessive case.
3. The observation in No. 1. appears contradicted by such expression as, “The report of the Queen's being in danger," where Queen's is in the possessive case, and apparently governed by the participle, being. The principle of such construction, however, is no contradiction, but rather a confirmation, of the assertion in Observation 1; as, in the foregoing example (and the case is the same wherever such construction occurs), being is not to be considered in any other light than that of a noun expressing a state or exist
It may be remarked, moreover, that such expression is seldom used, and that " The report of the Queen being in danger,” is the more ordinary one.
“Of the Queen,” is the natural prepositional complement of“ being," and being itself is the complement of report; the whole expression
being resolved thus-“The report of the peing (existence of the Queen in danger.”
4. The possessive case and its governing word must stand immediately connected—as, “The Queen's throne.” Hence, if the possessive case have a relative pronoun standing for it in the sentence, perspicuity of style, if not euphony, would require that such possessive be converted into the prepositional complement: thus, instead of “The Queen's throne, who was called Victoria," it would be preferable to say, “The throne of the Queen, who was called Victoria." Euphony, not perspicuity, requires such substitution in the case of the example in question ; for who is at once understood to refer to Queen's, not throne. In other cases, however, perspicuity would require a similar substitution; as in the expression, “ The Queen's husband, who was regarded a public benefactor," wherein it is doubtful who was the benefactor, who being, by its gender, which is common, capable of standing for Queen's
or husband. In the form, on the contrary, « The husband of the Queen, who was regarded a public benefactor," no such doubt can exist; it being an acknowledged principle that the relative must be placed as nearly as possible in contact with its antecedent, which, in the present instance, is Queen.
5. The prepositional complement equivalent to the possessive case should immediately succeed the noun which it explains ; thus, we do not say, “ The authority was now disregarded of the Council,” but, “ The authority of the Council was now disregarded.” Further, an adjective, may intervene between the noun and its possessive eomplement, and such adjective must qualify the noun explained, and not the complement; thus, “ Josiah's good reign," wherein good qualifies reign: if it were intended to qualify Josiah's, the expression would become, “The reign of good Josiah,” or “good Josiah's reign.
6. In the treatment of the adjective, the principle was exhibited whereby nouns are used as adjectives to qualify other nouns ; as in the word book-maker. This may be accounted for by supposing the former noun to be the possessive case, with its apostrophic mark and s suppressed : thus father-land, would signify, father's land, or the land of our father.
7. When two or more nouns in the possessive case follow each other, and are joined by a copulative conjunction, the sign of the possessive case, when the thing possessed is the same, is prefixed to the last noun only ; as, “Peter, Richard, and Joseph's estate.” In this example, the thing possessed being one and the same, the sign of the possessive case applies equally to each of the three possessive nouns; but“ Peter's, Joseph's, and Richard's estate," implies that each has a different estate; or at least it will admit of that meaning being given to it, while the former phrase will not.-[The substance of this observation is quoted from Cobbett.]
8. Sometimes, in common conversation, the governing word is not expressed, and the possessive complement alone is employed; but only when, from the nature of the case, the word understood is known, as it were, intuitively: thus, “ I bought it at the baker's ;" wherein shop is understood, which, on the mere utterance of the expression, is at once suggested to the hearer.
9. Occasionally several nouns, themselves differently governed, are so strung together as to serve in the place of a single possessive complement of another noun ; as in the expression, “ The Queen of England's throne;" with regard to which, it is to be observed, that the possessive mark is attached to the last noun only, although the idea, as intended to be conveyed, is that of the throne belonging to Queen, not England; from which consideration it immediately follows, that the expression, “Queen of England,” is regarded as one noun, and that it is the complement, in the possessive case, of throne.
10. The expression, “ Queen Victoria's throne,” is explained as all such expressions are, on a similar principle; otherwise the law of apposition, as enunciated in Rule 3, would be contradicted, Victoria and Queen being names for the same individual, and in different cases, if they be considered as separate names. 11. Such expressions as, “ Draco, of all philosophers,
, enacted the severest laws," prove that of, with its following noun, are not in every instance to be regarded as the strict grammatical equivalent of the possessive case. With regard to the example under consideration, it may be said
that of signifies among, and that the expression is equivalent to this—"Draco, of (regarded as an individual philosopher, i.e., amongst or in comparison with)all philosophers, enacted the severest laws." This observation holds in the case of such expressions as, “ I was told of it;”, “ He spoke to me of you;" wherein of holds the place of about, and expresses the relationship, through contact, between, in the first example, I and it; in the second, he and you.
12. “This is a discovery of Sir Isaac Newton's.” The first thing to be remarked here, is the difference in sense between a sentence like the one above, and a sentence like, “ This is a discovery of Sir Isaac Newton.” The latter proposition means,
This is how Sir Isaac Newton was discovered :" the former means, “ Of Sir Isaac Newton's discoveries, this is one;" or, “ This is one of the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton's discoveries.” Now the difference in sense is expressed by the presence or the absence of the 's in Newton's; that is, by the fact of the noun Newton being in the possessive case. In the first sentence, the word Newton's is possessive, and the question arises as to what word it is governed by. We see this at once by bearing in mind the meaning of the sentence. The three sentences—(1) “ This is a discovery of Sir Isaac Newton's ;"' (2) “This is one of Sir Isaac Newton's discoveries ;" (3) s óf Sir Isaac Newton's discoveries, this is one,” (meaning nearly the same thing, and differing widely from “This is a discovery of Sir Isaac Newton,") are all, if closely examined, incomplete in 'expression. The full expression would be (1) “This is a discovery of Sir Isaac Newton's (discoveries) ;” (2) “ This is one of the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton's (discoveries);" (3) "Of the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton's (discoveries), this (discovery) is one (discovery).” We now see that, in the original sentence, the word Newton's is in the possessive case, because it is governed by the substantive discovery, not expressed, but understood. Again—“ This is a picture of a friend,” means one thing; whilst, “ This is a picture of a friend's," means another thing. The latter, expressed in full, would be “This is a picture of (or, from amongst) a friend's (pictures).” “An enemy of the Emperor," means a man who is hostile to the Emperor ;" “An enemy of the Emperor's,"
means, one of the Emperor's enemies.” “A notion of a brother," means “a notion concerning a brother ;” “A notion of a brother's,” means one (amongst others) of a brother's notions.” In all sentences like those just quoted, there are two substantives : one which the a agrees with, and which is expressed ; and one by which brother's is governed, and which is omitted, as being understood.This whole observation is taken from Latham's English Grammar.]
RULE V.-ON THE CASE ABSOLUTE,
A noun is sometimes introduced into a sentence not as the subject of a verb, and not in a state of governmentthat is, not governed by a verb, a preposition, or by another noun; hence, such noun is called absolute, as being free from such influence as one word exercises on another in causing it to assume a particular form ; as in the expression, “ The day being fine, we took a walk ;" wherein day is in no wise connected with any word as governing it, and is. the case absolute.
When two actions are represented as occurring simultaneously, the one may be expressed in the ordinary way, by a subject and a verb; the other, by a noun or pronoun, and a participle agreeing therewith. This is especially the case when the two actions stand connected with each other, one as cause, the other as effect: thus-“His father being absent, he conducted himself riotously,” wherein "he conducted himself riotously” is the proposition, in which the subject is he and the verb conducted : this expresses the effect. “ His father being absent,” is equal to another proposition, “Because his father was absent;" wherein father unites with the participle, being, to express the cause,
, and is the absolute construction or the case absolute.
The absolute construction, as well as a cause, expresses also a state or condition ; as in the sentence, “ The King having seated himself on the throne, the deputation pro