Possessive case: John's father bought an electronic toy from the sumpermarket.


We add 's at the end of the noun to make it possessive.

For living things we used to follow the above rule:
Example : John’s father bought an electronic toy from the sumpermarket.

But, can we follow the same rule for non-living things?

Example : The chair’s leg is broken.(In my opinion,it is incorrect.)
The leg of the chair is broken.(In my opinion, it is correct.)

Are both the sentences correct?

Debasish Joardar

Yes, the 's is used for some inanimate objects, but not all. Some sound odd, e.g. “the hotel’s door was locked”


Not very much clear to me.

I am still confused with the term ‘some inanimate objects’. kindly give some idea about the type of ‘inanimate objects’ where we should use 's.


Last year’s model.
Todays’ meeting



There is no rule that says you have to use the “-'s” suffix for one thing and “of” for another. Most native speakers use the “-'s” ending predominantly for both and nearly always when people are involved or anything you could regard as “familiar”.

I must respectfully disagree with Molly on “the hotel’s door was locked” - I do not think that sounds awkward or odd at all and in fact I would likely say “he hotel’s door was locked” rather than “the door of the hotel was locked”. If anything, the first phrase sounds more natural to me and I am a native English speaker. However, I do agree with the other points Molly makes.

It seems from some of the reading I am doing on ESL websites that many students are being taught “of” for inanimate things and "-'s"for anything belonging to a person. Of course, one of them had poor grammar and misspelled words by the “instructor” which doesn’t make me believe one should place too much stock in what he/she says.

What ends up happening is that non-native speakers end up using “of” far too much and the speech sounds awkward and unnatural. I would normally say “the car’s door”, “that house’s door”, “my school’s team”, etc rather than the corresponding phrase with “of”. A lot of it you just have to learn by observing how native speakers communicate. Some lengthy sentences with multiple possessives might be cumbersome with the “s” or the “of” overused, however, and a mixture might make it sound more natural (e.g. “that house’s garden’s flowers” is little awkward, but “the flowers of the garden of that house” is equally bad - a better solution might be “the flowers in/of that house’s garden”).

But in answer to your question, YES you can use “-s” for things possessing other things.

Your sentence “the chair’s legs are broken” is COMPLETELY correct and how a native speaker in fact would likely say it. :smiley:

This thread is a year and a half old, Steve, so it is hardly worth adding to, but your comments need amending. -S is not ‘completely correct’ or ‘how a native would likely say it’.

Native speakers normally avoid the Anglo-Saxon genitive for inanimate objects by turning the noun into an adjective:

The chair legs are broken; the car/house door is locked.

Since schools, like other institutions, consist of people and are frequently personified, the A-S genitive is optional in this kind of case, but still not the more usual choice:

My school’s / school team just won again. Our church fathers held a meeting. Harvard’s/Harvard non-teaching staff are on strike.

Hi Steve,

The only time you could possibly use ‘the chair’s legs’ would be in a children’s story where the chair takes on human attributes. But then that’s a rather special case.


No one really answered the original poster (in post that’s a year and a half old, as MM so succinctly pointed out) but I got two replies in less than a day - I feel honored.

Being a native speaker myself I am reasonably familiar with native usage, amd I am sure I hear much more of it here than one would in Yokohama.

If you really look at how native speakers communicate, they use the -s possessive for inanimate objects all the time and not necesarily those that take on a “human” or animal form. This happens in both written and verbal form but most often when speaking. There’s a difference sometimes between what might be considered technically correct and how language is actually used…

You seem to get much of your information about students’ needs and abilities from “ESL websites”, Steve, not from teaching them, so perhaps you are unaware that EFL students at least must be taught with the idea in mind that they will face language proficiency examinations that test just the sort of thing we are arguing about. It is fine to tell us that the native speakers you meet likely say ‘the chair’s legs’, but stating that it is ‘completely correct’ is counterproductive.

Since you meet so many more native speakers than I do, it would be interesting if you could perform some sort of simple survey among them-- offer them the choice of the 3 sentences, for instance (The chair’s leg is broken, The leg of the chair is broken, or The chair leg is broken), for instance-- and see what kind of data you can bring back to us.

All I have to rely on is my own use and Ms Google’s:

35,700 hits for “the chair’s leg”.
213,000 hits for “the chair leg”
582,000 hits for “the leg of the chair”