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Of 'of,' Expressing possession and being possessed Options
rob
Posted: Saturday, September 18, 2010 6:54:15 PM

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This was the definition that I posted of 'of' from the 1989 edition of the OED:


XIV. In the sense belonging or pertaining to; expressing possession and its converse: "the owner of the house", "the house of the owner".

Formerly expressed by the genitive, and still to some extent by the possessive case (with transposition of order). The use of "of" began in Old English with senses 47, 48, expressing origin. After the Norman Conquest the example of the French "de", which had taken the place of the L. genitive, caused the gradual extension of "of" to all uses in which Old English had the genitive; the purely possessive sense was the last to be so affected, and it is that in which the genitive or "possessive" case is still chiefly used. Thus, we say the King's English, in preference to the English of the King; but the King of England in preference to England's King, which is not natural or ordinary prose English.

I went on-line and found the September 2010 revision:

X. Expressing possession and being possessed
Eg 'the owner of the house', 'the house of the owner'. Generally regarded as one of the central uses of the word.

Formerly expressed by the genitive case, and still to some extent by the genitive of nouns (especially proper names) and possessive adjectives (with transposition of order). The use of of began in Old English with senses 33, 34, expressing origin. After the Norman Conquest the example of the French de, which had taken the place of the Latin genitive, caused the gradual extension of of to all uses in which Old English had the genitive; the purely possessive sense was the last to be so affected, and it is that in which the genitive or 'possessive' case is still chiefly used. Thus, we say the King's English, in preference to the English of the King; but the King of England in preference to England's King, which is not natural or ordinary prose English.

The "pertaining to" condition has been removed and the choice of words condensed to:
"Expressing possession and being possessed"
also the comment "Generally regarded as one of the central uses of the word." is, in my opinion, significant.

Could somebody please help me interpret the difference between:
#1 Formerly expressed by the genitive, and still to some extent by the possessive case (with transposition of order).
#2 Formerly expressed by the genitive case, and still to some extent by the genitive of nouns (especially proper names) and possessive adjectives (with transposition of order).


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