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I happened to run into the following example in Collins:

His face was covered with the stubble of several nights.

I think the underlying pattern is "a thing achieved of a period of time".

I'm not sure it is OK to say "fruit of several months", "training of a couple of years", "wait of the whole afternoon", etc.

Is it exchangeable with the genitive construction?

His face was covered with several nights' stubble.

  • Both of and the genitive apostrophe are syntactically valid, but idiomatically the latter is far more common in contexts like yours, where you're adjectivally quantifying something by a time duration. So when the plumber is looking at your dripping tap and sucking his teeth, he says That'll be several hours' work, not That'll be the work of several hours. – FumbleFingers Dec 18 '16 at 13:23
  • @FumbleFingers When would the former be preferred? – Kinzle B Dec 18 '16 at 13:28
  • Haha - you're really putting me on the spot there! Consider a detective investigating a ransacked house. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that he's always say This looks like the work of several burglars rather than ...several burglars' work. An even more common context would be Samson had the strength of ten men, where no-one would normally say He has ten mens' strength. But I'm afraid offhand I can't explain why the preferred form with multiple time periods is different to that with multiple burglars or men. I may just have to ask about that on ELU! – FumbleFingers Dec 18 '16 at 13:44
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you! It's really intriguing! :) – Kinzle B Dec 18 '16 at 13:57
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    Here's a link to the ELU question I just asked. Hopefully we'll get some useful info there that can be distilled into an answer here that's better suited to the needs of non-native speakers. – FumbleFingers Dec 18 '16 at 14:28
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Google results: - 431 “The stubble of several nights” - 3 “several nights' stubble” - 1,510 "several days' beard growth"

As a native speaker from the middle of the country and a lawyer with high verbal scores, I can tell you I have never heard either one used. I have added a third choice that I have heard and used myself. All are technically correct but usage may vary.

If you've seen the first two in print, then either they were used at one time or are used in one of the bazillion places where native speakers accumulate local uses (though narrowed down to places where they publish such books and think they are the model which leaves only New York & London). The true native speakers, the rural south England peasantry, are not common I don't think. Their descendants, the urban south England working class, are unintelligible to outsiders often intentionally.

Thus, there remain two traditional ways to speak English, (1) one is Received Pronunciation that is the usage of the British upper classes as taught in the private "Public" boarding schools, and (2) General American which is used in an area extended a modest ways from Omaha. There are others, (3) NBC English, (4) BBC English, MLA, etc. If you want to use it like an American, read and reread Strunk & White and an out of date Harbrace College Handbook.

Remember that what colleges teach today is politically correct and offensive to 80% of the country. If you want to hear Standard American, listen to Johnny Carson or Warren Buffet. Both are from Nebraska and hit the sweet spot. If an English book was written in the US in the last year, it was written to please people that hate America and see English as one more tool to sell Marxism. They've butchered it, and their influence will pass.

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