A poor thing, but my own

Unlike in Dutch, the word “own” can’t stand alone. You’ve always got to make clear who the “own” is referring to.

It often means that English requires a couple more words than the Dutch. But so be it. Examples:

  • “The company has own resources for this” => its own resources or resources of its own
  • “Each person must bring an own lunch” => Each person must bring their own lunch
  • “The own managers will handle the complaints of the company” => The company’s own managers will handle its complaints
  • Don’t believe Grammarly all the time, by the way, if you use that particular tool: it keeps telling you to remove own as tautologous, whereas it adds emphasis and implies individual ownership:
    Every guest went home in a taxi.
    Every guest went home in their own taxi
    In the first case they’re quite probably shared, but the latter explicitly means one each.

So if it’s good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for the rest of us. (And before anyone starts complaining, yes, I know the original was really An ill-favoured thing but mine own).

Prevalence: very high. Along with writers from other Germanic languages, which have similar usage to Dutch.
Frequency: high. It’s just the unthinking translation of eigen for most Dutch people, without thinking about the effect on the rest of the sentence.
Native: no. It stands out very quickly as non-native and wrong.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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