What Is the Genitive Case?

Low Section of woman walking on street
He stood up and concentrated on the shoes of the girl in front of him.. Fabian Palencia / EyeEm / Getty Images

The genitive is the case (or function) of an inflected form of a noun or pronoun showing ownership, measurement, association, or source. Adjective: genitival.

The suffix -'s on nouns is a marker of genitive case in English. Genitive case can also be indicated by an of phrase after a noun. In addition, the possessive determiners (my, your, his, her, its, our, and their) are sometimes regarded as genitive pronouns.

The genitive case in English is commonly referred to as the possessive case.

See Examples and Observations below. Also, see:

Etymology: From the Latin, "to beget"

Examples of the Genitive Case

  • "Mama Sim took off the girl's shoes, pulled the covers up to her shoulders, then smoothed her hair as it fanned across the pillow."
    (Billie Letts, Made in the U.S.A. Grand Central Publishing, 2008)
  • "[H]e stood up and concentrated on the shoes of the girl in front of him, a sleepy girl who kept leaning into the shoulder of a blond boy so that she could lift and twirl her foot whenever the crowd halted. The soles of her shoes were lime green, beautiful and astonishing."
    (Jessica Francis Kane, The Report: A Novel. Graywolf Press, 2010)
  • "Some of the flakes land on the Chevrolet's hood and windshield, and when Ann reaches out the wing window to brush them away, the confetti clings to her hand."
    (Thomas Trebitsch Parker, Anna, Ann, Annie. Dutton, 1993)
  • "Booker roared as he lunged across the hood of the Chevrolet, reaching for Nish and catching the hood of his jacket."
    (Roy MacGregor, The Complete Screech Owls. Random House, 2006)

A Structural Relationship

  • "As with possessives generally, the term 'genitive' should not be identified too closely with ideas of ownership or actual possession or belonging. The genitive case signals a structural grammatical relationship between a noun and a noun phrase, and the actual relationship between the things referred to by the nouns may simply be some kind of loose association."
    (James R. Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide. Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Possession Marked by the Preposition Of

  • "The preposition of often introduces a noun in a relationship of 'possession' to the preceding noun. This is the usual way of indicating possession for inanimates. [11] might be rephrased as [12]. [11] Kennan found the bullet's exit point [L03:96]
    [12] Kennan found the exit point of the bullet . . .
    Two further examples to illustrate the use of of-phrases for possession are given in the sentence at [14].
    All Aristotle was excited at the time, but not by the prospect of the U.S. President's visit, but by a great storm in the photosphere of the sun [M02:104]
    The first of-phrase could not be expressed in any other way. ., but the second could be rephrased using the 's construction: 'the sun's photosphere.'"
    (Howard Jackson, Grammar, and Meaning: A Semantic Approach to English Grammar. Longman, 1990)

Simplifying Long Genitive Phrases

  • "Potentially, the genitive may be quite a complicated phrase. But there is a tendency to prefer the of-construction where the genitive would cause too much complexity in front of the head noun. Hence the night train to Edinburgh's departure is less likely to occur than the departure of the night train to Edinburgh. Notice in this example, however, that the placing of the 's at the end of Edinburgh is perfectly acceptable, even though the genitive indicates the departure of the train, rather than the departure of Edinburgh! This is an example of the so-called group genitive, where the genitive phrase contains postmodification."
    (Geoffrey Leech, A Glossary of English Grammar, Edinburgh University Press, 2006)

The Genitive in Advertising

  • "The final noun phrase of the advertisement, the car's already aerodynamic lines, has the use of the genitive car's, which is uncommon for inanimate nouns in many other language domains, but common in advertising. The premodifiers themselves, in this case, are subordinate phrases: ((the car's) (already aerodynamic) lines). This has the effect of conciseness and impact, as is clear if we compare an equivalent phrase with postmodification: the lines (of the car) (which are already aerodynamic)."
    (Geoffrey Leech, Margaret Deuchar, and Robert Hoogenraad, English Grammar for Today: A New Introduction, 2nd ed. Palgarve Macmillan, 2006)

Pronunciation: JEN-i-tiv