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Ways of showing partition


Many non-count nouns combine with a set of nouns showing some part of material or abstract notion. Here are some typical partitives for material and abstract nouns:


a slice of bacon a slice of cake   a piece a lump of coal
a piece a loaf   of bread a piece a lump of sugar
a piece a stick   of chalk a blade of grass    
a piece a bar   of chocolate   a piece a block of ice  
a piece a sheet of paper a piece a strip of land


a grain of rice     a piece an article of furniture
a pile a heap   of rubbish   a piece of evidence   a fit of passion   a piece of research
a piece a word   of advice
a piece an item of information, news


§ 178. In some cases there is no obvious logical reason for the as­signment of various English nouns to the count or non-count class. In Russian and English the attribution of the corresponding nouns may be different. Here are some cases when the classes of nouns in English and Russian do not coincide:

English non-count nouns Russian count nouns
advice (they gave us some valuable advice) news progress (they are making slow progress) research (do some research) knowledge (you have a fairlygood knowledge of the subject) совет/советы новость/новости успех/успехи исследование/исследования, научная работа знание/знания
English singular invariable nouns Russian plural invariable nouns
ink cream yeast money hair fruit applause chess чернила сливки дрожжи деньги волосы фрукты аплодисменты шахматы


Hair is a count noun in the sense of волос, волосок. Fruit as a count noun means kinds of fruit: dried fruits keep long.

English plural invariable nouns Russian singular invariable nouns
sweepings clothes greens contents odds cop одежда зелень (овощи) содержание преимущество (спортивное)

The category of case

§ 179. Case is a grammatical category which shows relation of the noun with other words in a sentence. It is expressed by the form of the noun.

English nouns have two cases:the common case andthe genitive case.However, not all English nouns possess the category of case; there are certain nouns, mainly nouns denoting inanimate objects, which cannot be used in the genitive case.

The common case is unmarked, it has no inflexion (zero inflexion) and its meaning is very general.

The genitive case is marked by theapostrophe s (‘s).

§ 180. In writing there are two forms of the genitive: for most nouns it is ‘s (mother’s) and for nouns ending in -s and regular plural nouns only the apostrophe (mothers’).

In speech there are four ways of pronunciation of the genitive case.

1. [z] after vowels and voiced consonants: Negro’s, dog’s;

2. [s] after voiceless consonants: student’s;

3. [Iz] after sibilants: prince’s, judge’s;

4. zero endings: girls’, boys’.


The zero form is used:


a) with regular plural nouns – students’, drivers’, doctors’;


b) with Greek nouns in -s of more than one syllable:

Socrates’ ['sokrati:z] wife,

Xerxes’ ['zǝ ksi: z] army,

Euripides’ |juǝ'rɪpɪdi:z] plays.


In many other names ending in the voiced sibilant [z] the normal spelling of the genitive case is with the apostrophe only (though sometimes 's occurs too): Burns’ (Burns’s) poems, Dickens’ (Dickens’s) novels.


Names ending in sibilants other than [z] have the regular [ɪz] in the genitive:


Marx’s [sɪz] ideas,

Tess’s [sɪz] misfortunes.


Irregular plural nouns forming their plural by vowel change also have the regular [z] in the genitive:

Children’s games,

women’s faces.


Compound nouns have ’s joined to the final component:


the editor-in-chief’s office,

my mother-in-law’s garden,

a passer-by’s comment.

§ 181. A specific feature of the English genitive case is the so-called group genitive when ‘s can be joined:


1) to a group of two coordinated nouns if such a group refers to a single idea (when two persons possess or

are related to something they have in common):


Mum and Dad’s room.

John and Mary’s car.


2) to a more extensive phrase which may even contain a clause:


the Duke of Norfolk’s sister,

the secretary of state’s private room,

the man I saw yesterday’s son.


3) to a noun (pronoun) + a pronoun group:


someone else’s benefit.


4) to a group ending in a numeral:


in an hour or two’s time.

§ 182. The main meaning of the genitive case is that ofpossession,hence the traditional term ‘the possessive case’. This general sense undergoes a number of modifications under the influence of the lexical meaning of both the noun in the genitive case and the noun it modifies.


The main modifications of this meaning are:


1. The ideaof belonging: John’s coat, Mary’s car.


2. Different kinds of relations, such as:


a)relation of the whole to its parts: John’s leg, the cat’s tail;


b)personal or social relations: John’s wife, John’s friend.


Besides the genitive case retains some of its old meanings:

subjective relations:

Chekhov’s observation = Chekhov observed;

the doctor’s arrival =- the doctor arrived;


Byron’s poem, Shakespeare’s tragedy;

objective relations:

Caesar’s murder = Caesar was murdered;

Jule’s arrest = Jule was arrested;


an hour’s trip, a mile’s distance.


In some cases the form ’s completely loses the meaning of possession and comes to denote aquality, as in man’s blood, woman’s work (serving in works canteen or a transport cafe, is generally regarded as woman’s work), his sly idiot’s smile - идиотская улыбка, you’ve got angel’s eyes -ангельские глазки, this is a women’s college - женский колледж.

The use of the genitive case and its equivalent of-phrase

§ 183. The genitive case is used:


1. With nounsdenoting persons and animals.

John’s idea, the swallow’s nest, the mare’s back.


With other nouns (denoting inanimate objects or abstract notions) theof + noun phrase is used: the back of a train, the legs of a table.


2. With nounsdenoting time and distance, such as minute, moment, hour, day, week, month, year, inch, foot, mile and substantivized adverbs: today, yesterday, tomorrow, etc.


a moment’s delay an hour’s drive today’s newspaper a week’s time a night’s rest a month’s absence a mile’s distance a few minutes’ silence yesterday’s telephone conversation  


With these nouns the of-phrase is either impossible, as in the first three examples, or if it is possible the two variants are not interchangeable.


today’s papers - сегодняшние газеты

the papers of today - газеты сегодняшнего дня

3. Withthe names of countries and towns.


Britain’s national museums

Canada’s population

London’s ambulance services

4. Withthe names of newspapersandnouns denoting different kinds of organizations.


The Guardian’s analysis, the Tribune’s role, the company’s plans, the firm’s endeavours, the Coal Board’s Offer, the government’s policy, the organisation’s executive board, the Geographical Society’s gold medal.


5. Often with the nouns world, nation, country, city, town:

the world’s top guitarists, the nation’s wealth.

6. With the nouns ship, boat, car:

the ship’s crew, the car’s wheel.


7. With nouns denoting planets: sun, moon, earth:

the sun’s rays, this earth’s life.


8. With some inanimate nouns in the following set expressions:

to one’s heart’s content (desire), at death’s door, at arm’s length, out of harm’s way, a hair’s breadth, a

needle’s eye, at a stone’s throw, to move at a snail’s pace, at the water’s edge.

§ 184. The syntactical function of the genitive case is that of an attribute. It is always used as a premodifier of a noun and is sometimes calledthe dependent genitive.

However there are some cases when the noun in the genitive case is not followed by the headword and then it stands for the whole noun phrase. This is the so-calledabsolute genitive. It is used:


1. To avoid repetition:

Our house is better than Mary’s (than Mary’s house).


2. After the prepositionof:

an old friend of my mother’s, that cousin of my husband’s.


3. To denote shops such as the butcher’s, the baker’s, the grocer’s, the chemist’s, or institutions, where the genitive is usually a saint's name:

St Paul’s (Cathedral), St James’s (Palace),


or places of residence:

at Timothy’s, atOld Jolyon’s, at my uncle’s.


There are also cases (though rare) when a noun is modified by two successive nouns in the genitive case. It is the so calleddouble genitive, as in My mother’s father’s people. The first in such structures has as a rule the meaning of possession (the father of my mother), while the second may either have the same meaning (the people of my father) or other meanings as in: the boy's half-hour’s run.

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