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Here's a little thing I longtime wanted to ask. You say:

I will be at my sister's.
She's a friend of my sister's.

In the first sentence this seems clearly to mean: "At my sister's " house or place.
The second form always struck me as odd. "a friend of my sister's" ... what?

Maybe I am making mistakes here, but I just would like to know the details about this. (thanks)

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It's called a double genitive (link). Michael Quinion opines (link) about it. The MWDEU is also a good reference (link).


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
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I would just say "a friend of my sister." no possessive.


formerly known as etaoin...
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Thanks both of you's. smile Then it ws my old school English that put it in my head like that. It is simply oldfashioned, allright. A friend of my sister, just like that from now on.

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... and "my sister's friend".

It works well for "friend" (possibly due to the assumption the friend relationship is reciprocal?). but "A picture of my sister" might depict my sister and belong to me or anyone, while "a picture of my sister's" would show anything and belong to her.

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Ha, yes, I see. I see . There is a difference in meaning when you consider the picture sentence. But what is odd is the 's'.

A picture of my sister's. The s looks like a leftover from his.
"My sister his picture". But then my sister is a her. Then I do understand you can't write or say " my sister'r picture".
You could say though: "my brother's picture = " my brother his picture", hey ho ! Sinking deeper and deeper in the mud. eek

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Originally Posted By: BranShea


A picture of my sister's. The s looks like a leftover from his.
"My sister his picture". But then my sister is a her. Then I do understand you can't write or say " my sister'r picture".
You could say though: "my brother's picture = " my brother his picture"


This is a commonly held misunderstanding of the origin of the 's possesive marker in English. It really comes from one of the most common OE inflexional endings for the genitive singular.

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The only basic mistake you're making Bran is to expect logic or consistency from the English language!

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This reminds me of the discussion of earlier this year concerning where do Churches come up with things like: " at
St. Bernard's". St. Bernard is dead, cannot be a possessive.
Yet even at the Vatican it is St. Peter's Basilica, in London it is St. Paul's. Someone mentioned the 'genitive' case above: which
as I understand it, indicates 'possession', yet a dead saint cannot possess a Church, etc.etc.etc. I like Pook's comment: don't expect consistence in the English language.


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Yep, we've been through this before. The genitive covers more than just possession, despite the modern tendency to call it the possessive. You might say, for example, my brother's parole officer. Doesn't mean you brother owns the parole officer.

As to questions about a friend of my sister's, ask yourself this: Would you say a friend of me or a friend of mine.

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