I know that it is correct to say:

The table handle is rugged.

When the noun table is replaced by its pronoun, then:

Its handle is rugged.

But why don't we say something like:

The table's handle is rugged.

Though both its and table's are possessives.

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    Possessive vs attributive Noun is a much debated area of grammar, and no clear discussion is made available yet about it. NP -> the table handle. Here handle is the head noun, and table is used attributively, that semantically is equivalent to table's. But we don't use possessive here in this case. as you already pointed out, we use possessive pronoun - its handle, not it handle. Aug 28, 2016 at 15:28
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    I think the genitive "the table's handle" is acceptable ("the handle of the table"), as is "the door's hinges are broken". Attributive genitives of the descriptive kind are a somewhat unproductive category. In "an old people's home" for example "old people's" is an attributive modifier and takes the genitive case with no problem; as does "a Sainsbury's catalogue" and "very expensive ladies' gloves". But although "a winter's day" is fine, "A spring's day" is marginal at best. And we have "a ship's doctor" but not *"a school's doctor".
    – BillJ
    Aug 28, 2016 at 16:59
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    Some ELL texts give a rule something like Use 's with people, but [something of something] for things. John's book. The entrance of the building. A counterproductive "guideline" I think. Aug 28, 2016 at 19:31
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    Echoes of this commentary paraphrased from Huddleston and Pullum are here. Aug 28, 2016 at 20:15
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    @AnubhavSingh Considering its diminutive size, the apostrophe is the subject of an incongruously large amount of discussion amongst linguists. It is their version of "angels on the head of a pin." This can be puzzling, not to mention frustrating, for learners of English who want a rule to guide them. The rule prohibiting the use of the Saxon genitive for non-human things admits of so many exceptions that it is largely useless. Why new learners, especially those taught by non-native speakers, are still being instructed thus is beyond me. Aug 28, 2016 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


It is perfectly acceptable to say "the table's handle". There is no rule against "the table's". In particular, you often from apostrophe-s words with non-human nouns.

It is sometimes also possible to use a noun attributively or to form compound nouns. But you can't use a pronoun as part of a compound noun.

So we can say "swimming pool" but we can't say "it pool" or "it's pool" (even if "it" refers to swimming)

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