A Friend of Yours?

Are you a friend of John or a friend of John’s? Often writers will leave off the “possessive” apostrophe+s, but you need it. Think about these two phrases:

A portrait of King Henry

A portrait of King Henry’s

In the first instance, you have a portrait of the king. In the second instance, the king owns a portrait. There’s a huge difference in meaning here. So are you a friend of John? No, you are John’s friend—a friend of John’s. And hopefully, he is a friend of yours (not a friend of you).

4 Responses to “A Friend of Yours?”

  1. Lorna Faith June 8, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    Drat! I get these mixed up all the time;( I’m bookmarking this post because I know I’ll need it later!

  2. A.K.Andrew June 10, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    Thanks so much for the clarification – it’s all these ‘obvious ‘ grammatical issues that help to make our writing stand out 🙂

  3. Julia Moraes April 24, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    Hello! Please, help me to understand when should I use “of” or a possessive (apostrophe+s).
    For example: World’s problems X Problems of the world. OR Week’s days X Days of the week.
    Thank you!

    • cslakin April 25, 2013 at 11:01 am #

      It depends on the context. So often writers will say something like “he pushed on the shoulder of John” instead of “he pushed on John’s shoulder.” The latter, of course is neater and less awkward. But there’s nothing wrong with saying “she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders” (other than it is a cliche). You can say either “Let’s tackle the world’s problems” or “Let’s tackle the problems of the world.” It’s up to you, and if a character is speaking, it would depend on their speech and background.

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