a [noun]'s [noun in plural]

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pabechan
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2009 11:46 pm UTC

a [noun]'s [noun in plural]

Postby pabechan » Mon Oct 10, 2011 9:45 pm UTC

I've just stumbled upon "a man is willing to die for a woman's breasts."

And my brain instantly froze.

THOU SHALL NOT USE INDEFINITE ARTICLE WITH PLURAL.

BUT IT BELONGS TO "WOMAN".

WHO CARES, DIEEEEE! *PEW PEW PEW*

What do :|


(to what extent is that ok?)

Anonymously Famous
Posts: 242
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2010 4:01 am UTC

Re: a [noun]'s [noun in plural]

Postby Anonymously Famous » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:14 pm UTC

It's actually fine. A sentence's parts... A person's feelings... A puzzle's pieces... All fine.

Derek
Posts: 2181
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:15 am UTC

Re: a [noun]'s [noun in plural]

Postby Derek » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:26 pm UTC

The genitive 's ending long since became a clitic that can be applied to phrases. (A woman)'s breasts. (The queen of England)'s crown. (My friend from Detroit)'s car.

But now I'm wondering how phrases such as "a woman's breasts" were constructed when when it was a true genitive ending. I'm guessing the article was still used.

Aiwendil
Posts: 313
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2011 8:53 pm UTC
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Re: a [noun]'s [noun in plural]

Postby Aiwendil » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:50 pm UTC

The indefinite article didn't really exist in Old English. The ancestor of our 'a'/'an' was O.E. 'an', which meant 'one'. This was sometimes used where we would use the indefinite article, but more often no article was used. Old English did, however, have the definite article. Like any adjective, either of these would be put in the case of the noun they modify.

So in Old English one would say:
wifes breost = [a] woman's breasts (here 'wifes' is genitive)
anes wifes breost = one woman's breasts ('anes' is genitive, agreeing with 'wifes')
þaes wifes breost = the woman's breasts ('þaes' is genitive, agreeing with 'wifes')


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