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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

Not as genitive cases but as adjectives


CHAPTER VIII.

ON THE POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS.

s. 448. The possessive pronouns fall into two classes. The first contains the forms like _my_ and _thy_, &c.; the second, those like _mine_ and _thine_, &c.

_My_, _thy_, _his_ (as in _his book_), _her_, _its_ (as in _its book_), _our_, _your_, _their_, are conveniently considered as the equivalents to the Latin forms _mei_, _tui_, _ejus_, _nostrum_, _vestrum_, _eorum_.

_Mine_, _thine_, _his_ (as in _the book is his_), _hers_, _ours_, _yours_, _theirs_ are conveniently considered as the equivalents to the Latin forms _meus_, _mea_, _meum_; _tuus_, _tua_, _tuum_; _suus_, _sua_, _suum_; _noster_, _nostra_, _nostrum_; _vester_, _vestra_, _vestrum_.

s. 449. There is a difference between the construction of _my_ and _mine_. We cannot say _this is mine hat_, and we cannot say _this hat is my_. Nevertheless, this difference is not explained by any change of construction from that of adjectives to that of cases. As far as the syntax is concerned the construction of _my_ and _mine_ is equally that of an adjective _agreeing_ with a substantive, and of a genitive (or possessive) case _governed_ by a substantive.

Now a common genitive case can be used in two ways; either as part of a term, or as a whole term (i.e., absolutely).--1. As part of

a term--_this is John's hat_. 2. As a whole term--_this hat is John's_.

And a common adjective can be used in two ways; either as part of a term, or as a whole term (i.e. absolutely).--1. As part of a term--_these are good hats_. 2. As a whole term--_these hats are good_.

Now whether we consider _my_, and the words like it, as adjectives or cases, they possess only _one_ of the properties just illustrated, i.e., they can only be used as part of a term--_this is my hat_; not _this hat is my_.

And whether we consider _mine_, and the words like it, as adjectives or cases, they possess only _one_ of the properties just illustrated, i.e., they can only be used as whole terms, or absolutely--_this hat is mine_; not _this is mine hat_.

For a full and perfect construction whether of an adjective or a genitive case, the possessive pronouns present the phenomenon of being, singly, incomplete, but, nevertheless, complementary to each other when taken in their two forms.

s. 450. In the absolute construction of a genitive case, the term is formed by the single word, only so far as the _expression_ is concerned. A substantive is always _understood_ from what has preceded.--_This discovery is Newton's_ = _this discovery is Newton's discovery_.

The same with adjectives.--_This weather is fine_ = _this weather is fine weather_.

And the same with absolute pronouns.--_This hat is mine_ = _this hat is my hat_; and _this is a hat of mine_ = _this is a hat of my hats_.

s. 451. In respect to all matters of syntax considered exclusively, it is so thoroughly a matter of indifference whether a word be an adjective or a genitive case that Wallis considers the forms in -'s, like _father's_, not as genitive cases but as adjectives. Looking to the logic of the question alone he is right, and looking to the practical syntax of the question he is right also. He is only wrong on the etymological side of the question.


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