GrammarPhile Blog

Possessives in "of" Phrases

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Nov 6, 2012 1:30:00 PM

Dog holding a toy in it's mouthWe see mistakes often in the use of possessives. That's because there are rules and exceptions. Here are some rules.

The object of the preposition of should not ordinarily be in the possessive form, since the of phrase as a whole expresses possession. However, possessives are used in a few idiomatic expressions.

  • Beth Anne and Lance are good friends of ours as well as our children's.
  • Did you know that Betty and Barney are neighbors of the Flintstones'?
  • Carl Brandt was a literary agent of Marjorie's.

Note the difference in meaning in the following phrases:

  • a statue of Rodin (a statue showing the likeness of the sculptor Rodin)
  • a statue of Rodin's (a statue created by Rodin)
  • a controversial view of the President (a view held by someone else)
  • a controversial view of the President's (a view held by the President)

Avoid adding the sign of the possessive to an of phrase.


  • awkward: A friend of mine's ski boat ran aground yesterday.
  • better: The ski boat of a friend of mine ran aground yesterday.
  • awkward: One of my friends' son won the slalom tournament.
  • better: The son of one of my friends won the slalom tournament.
  • confusing (and funny): You must negotiate the purchase price with the owner of the horse's wife.
  • clear: You must negotiate the purchase price of the horse with the owner's wife.


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Topics: possessive form, possessives

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