General Writing and Grammar Help/use of possessive form

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Question
Dear Ted,

Can you please help me with the following sentence:
“The boy is at his grandmother’s.”    

I am wondering why it is possible to use the possessive form  – “grandmother’s” without including what is possessed as in saying “The boy is at his grandmother’s house”.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

PLEASE NOTE:  I decided that, after 15 years of service and more than 15,000 questions answered, it was time to take a break from Allexperts.  My eye doctor has advised me against spending too much time on the computer.  I discovered recently that most days I have been working on Allexperts' questions for at least 4 hours.

There are a few of my "regular" questioners with whom I would like to stay in contact.  You are one of them.  You are also courteous, ask interesting questions, and are generous in your responses.  

SO . . . please feel free to (1) try other experts OR (2) send your questions to my e-mail account.  I will answer questions as soon as I can.

My personal address is tedjnesbitt@netscape.net

Thank you.

Ted


  Can you please help me with the following sentence:
“The boy is at his grandmother’s.”    

I am wondering why it is possible to use the possessive form  – “grandmother’s” without including what is possessed as in saying “The boy is at his grandmother’s house”.

*** You have answered your own question.  The word "at" introduces a prepositional phrase, and all prepositional phrases must contain an object.  There are TWO words of "possession" in that phrase:  his and grandmother's.  We know that the grandmother "belongs" to him, so that takes care of "his."
What, however, does the grandmother own?  It is not stated in the phrase.  The phrase is, therefore, called "elliptical," because a word is missing.

You must add an object:  house, apartment, restaurant, farm.  The grandmother MUST own something, and your suggestion of "house" is the most likely.

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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