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General Writing and Grammar Help/Possessive form + inanimate objects

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Question
Dear Ted:

Can inanimate objects/things show possessiveness?

If so, when is that possible?

Would you please give me some examples?

Thank you very much for the help.

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

Can inanimate objects/things show possessiveness?

If so, when is that possible?

Would you please give me some examples?

*** Very strict grammarians do NOT accept the practice of showing an object's possessive nature.  However, more and more people are allowing inanimate things to show possession.

Here's one example that I recently gave to another questioner:

The firemen aimed the water at the building's roof.
The firemen aimed the water at the roof of the building.

The reason for choosing the first version is that the sentence is shorter AND there is no problem with having two prepositional phrases appear together.  "At the roof of the building" is viewed as awkward; "the building's roof" is NOT awkward.

Years ago, I would have used the second version.  I have changed my mind, and now I find nothing wrong with using the apostrophe and "s" on an inanimate object.

*** One of the bicycle's tires is flat.  [Good for casual or common usage.]
One of the tires on the bicycle is flat.  [Preferred by "traditional" grammarians.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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