The blog’s purpose

There seems to be a common belief that the possessive form should only ever be used for animate objects. That is, of course, complete bollocks.

Today I received a translation back from a non-native client with multiple “corrections” into Dunglish. You’d be amazed at how often that occurs. And not for the first time, I was informed that I shouldn’t use the genitive/possessive (the form with an apostrophe) for inanimate or abstract objects. Um, right.

  • The car’s fuel consumption
  • The report’s conclusion
  • Belgium’s coal mines
  • The Earth’s atmosphere
  • … just how many examples do we need?

This is following on from a (presumably well-intentioned) e-mail after the post on The muscles of the legs of the sprinter a week or so ago, expressing this particular myth as one reason for the using “of the” everywhere.

Prevalence: very high. Many Dutch writers will prefer the long-winded “of the” when it’s quite unnecessary, no matter what the context.
Frequency: very high. One of the commonest things I need to change when editing.
Native: hmm. I’ll accept that there’s a tendency to use “of the” somewhat more in formal writing, but the possessive certainly isn’t a spoken form only.

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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