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Unit 27. Possession

Main points

1. You use possessives to say that a person or thing belongs to another person or thing or is connected with them. The possessives are sometimes called ‘possessive adjectives’.

my your his her its our their

Note that ‘your’ is both singular and plural.

I'd been waiting a long time to park my car.

They took off their shoes.

WARNING: The possessive ‘its’ is not spelled with an apostrophe. The form ‘it's’ with an apostrophe is the short form for ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.

2. You put numbers and adjectives after the possessive and in front of the noun.

Their two small children were playing outside.

She got a bicycle on her sixth birthday.

3. You use a possessive pronoun when you want to refer to a person or thing and to say who that person or thing belongs to or is connected with. The possessive pronouns are:

mine yours his hers ours theirs

Note that ‘yours’ is both singular and plural.

Is that coffee yours or mine?

It was his fault, not theirs.

WARNING: There is no possessive pronoun ‘its’.

4. You can also say who or what something belongs to or is connected with by using a noun with apostrophe s ('s). For example, if John owns a motorbike, you can refer to it as ‘John's motorbike’.

Sylvia put her hand on John's arm.

I like the car's design.

You add apostrophe s ('s) to singular nouns and irregular plural nouns, usually referring to people rather than things.

I wore a pair of my sister's boots.

Children's birthday parties can be boring.

With plural nouns ending in ‘-s’ you only add the apostrophe (’).

It is not his parents' problem.

You add apostrophe s ('s) to people's names, even when they end in ‘-s’.

Could you give me Charles's address?

Note that when you use two or more names linked by ‘and’, you put the apostrophe s ('s) after the last name.

They have bought Sue and Tim's car.

5. When you want to referto someone's home, or to some common shops and places of work, you can use apostrophe s ('s) after a name or noun on its own.

He's round at David's.

I bought it at the chemist's.

She must go to the doctor's.

6. You can also use apostrophe s ('s) with some expressions of time to identify something, or to say how much time is involved.

Did you see the cartoon in yesterday's newspaper?

They have four weeks' holiday per year.

7. You can use a prepositional phrase beginning with ‘of ’ to say that one person or thing belongs to or is connected with another.

She is the mother of the boy who lives next door.

Ellen aimlessly turned the pages of her magazine.

After ‘of ’ you can use a possessive pronoun, or a noun or name with apostrophe s ('s).

He was an old friend of mine.

That word was a favourite of your father's.

She's a friend of Stephen's.

8. You can add ‘own’ after a possessive, or a noun or name with apostrophe s ('s), for emphasis.

My own view is that there are no serious problems.

The professor's own answer may be unacceptable.

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