2

Can you tell and explain, which one is grammatically correct?

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's her?

or

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's hers?

4 Answers 4

4

The second is correct, ending in "what is hers?".

I can see why this would be confusing. If the word "excuse" were repeated in the second clause, it would be "what is her excuse?". Perfectly grammatical. But the reality is that "excuse" is not repeated. So her stands on its own, and it must become possessive to represent the missing word "excuse". That is why the example must be worded:

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's hers?

7
  • How does that work with names? "My excuse is that I am a kid, what's Mary's (excuse)?" Is the repetition of excuse necessary or not?
    – Jakub
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 18:42
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    @Jakub No, repeating the word "excuse" is not necessary, but it would be fine to do so. The only difference is that the proper noun Mary has to be specifically possessive whether or not excuse is there. The pronoun her only takes its possessive form when excuse is absent. See Laurel's answer.
    – RichF
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 18:53
  • nope, I'm here RichF and thanks for your answer, greatly appreciated!
    – Che...
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 20:18
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    @RichF Until the user manually creates an account on the site the question was migrated to, you can't click on the profile link because it does not exist. All it means is that the user doesn't have a profile here.
    – Catija
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 23:24
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    @Catija Thank you; I should have realized that. An account at english.stackexchange.com is not an account at ell.stackexchange.com, nor automatically created if there was a migrated question or answer.Got it!
    – RichF
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 0:18
4

The second one is correct:

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's hers?

Wikipedia, on its page here points out this is a "nominal ellipsis with [a] possessive determiner". In other words, it's an ellipsis.

The full sentence would be:

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's her excuse?

However, when the word excuse is elided, the possessive determiner her becomes the possessive pronoun hers.

4

As others have explained,

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's hers?

is correct and

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's her?

is incorrect.

Some "determiner" words in English cannot end a phrase

"Her" is used correctly in the following sentence:

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's her excuse?

The possesive word "her" is used as a "determiner" in English. Other examples of determiners are the definite article "the" and the indefinite article "a/an".

Some common English determiners, including "her", "the" and "a/an", cannot be the last word in a phrase; they need to be followed by a noun phrase.

When you don't have a particular noun phrase in mind, you have to use a generic noun phrase or a pronoun:

  • "What's her excuse?" > "What's hers?" (her > hers)
  • "Give me a french fry." > "Give me one." (a > an indefinite pronoun like one)
  • "I want to read the book." > "I want to read it." (the > a personal pronoun like it)

Other possessive words like "her":

  • my _ (replace with "mine" when it is the last word in a phrase)
  • your _ (replace with "yours")
  • our _ ("ours")
  • their _ ("theirs")

These determiners are not only used directly before noun phrases, but also before coordinating conjunctions such as "and" or "or" in constructions with ellipsis where there is a noun phrase further on in the sentence:

"your and my ideas" = "your ideas and my ideas"

"Your ideas and mine" would also be correct, but *"your ideas and my" is incorrect.

But other determiner words can be used as complete noun phrases

But other words can function either as determiners or as complete noun phrases. For example, the demonstratives this, that, these, those are all fine either with a following noun phrase ("Who's that singer?") or no following noun phrase ("Who's that?").

The possessive word "his" can be used both ways.

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's his excuse?

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's his?

(both correct)

So can the possessive of any ordinary noun, like "Mary's".

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's Mary's excuse?

My excuse is that I am a kid, what's Mary's?

(both correct)

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  • Nice detailed answer, +1. Let me add that the pronouns "his" and "its" are special. Unlike "her"::"hers", they have no alternative forms for possession. I assume this is because it would be too hard to say "hisz".
    – RichF
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 0:43
  • @RichF: I left out "its" because it seems so odd usually to say something like "That's its!" (compared to "That's his" or "That's hers"). You're right that it's possible, as explained by the answers to this ELU question: “Its” as a Possessive Pronoun
    – sumelic
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 0:45
  • sumelic, thanks for the link. Interesting. I'm not sure it was necessary to find examples from classic works, though. Someone well might say today, "I drank my water, the fish drank its." I think the only thing that makes it relatively rare is that we seldom think of objects or animals having possessions. Plus we usually refer to mammals by sex. (I couldn't tell you about a goldfish.)
    – RichF
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 0:55
0

BASIC GRAMMAR: Reminder

Nouns=mine, yours, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs.

These nouns work like any other nouns.

  • "This is my excuse. What's theirs?"
  • "Here are my shoes. Where're yours? Or his?"

Possessive Adjectives: my book, your book, his book, her book, our book, your book, their book.

Please note: his is the same whether it's a noun or possessive adjective.

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