For example:
1) House's roof collapsed yesterday.
2) The roof of the house collapsed yesterday.

Which of these two is better and why?

  • 2
    Much better than both of those is the house roof. Mar 22 '17 at 17:41
  • I really thought about it. But people say it isn't correct.
    – Alexander
    Mar 22 '17 at 17:42
  • 1
    You're wasting your time listening to those people, because they don't know what they're talking about. It's actually quite difficult to persuade Google Books to show me the results for the garage's roof (about 128 hits), because the user interface keeps thinking I must be searching for the garage roof (about 12,800 hits). Mar 22 '17 at 17:45
  • Your example is just one of many possible scenarios, and the answer may not be the same across all of them. In this particular case, the word house ends with the "s" sound, so the word "house's" is a bit awkward to say. This might make me less inclined to use house's. As a similar example, if I worked at the zoo, I might be more inclined to say, "The giraffe's cage needs to be cleaned," but, "The cage of the hippopotamus needs to be cleaned," just to avoid saying hippopotamus'.
    – J.R.
    Mar 22 '17 at 17:55
  • @J.R.: It could be worse. What if that last cage housed several hippopotami, and you were aware of the fact that the plural hippopotami is now generally taken to be either funny or absurdly pedantic? Even though we don't normally either write or enunciate the final s in hippopotamuses's, you might feel you ought to if it was important to make it clear that it was a "multi-occupant" cage. Mar 22 '17 at 18:25

Both are understandable, but you have to be careful how you construct your sentence.

House's roof collapsed yesterday.

Doesn't work, because I don't know what house you're talking about. There are millions of houses. You need to say

My house's roof collapsed yesterday.

Which is a perfectly acceptable setntence.

The roof of the house collapsed yesterday

Is perfectly clear, but a little more formal. I would still say

The roof of my house collapsed yesterday

Unless you were in a conversation where the phrase "the house" is unambiguous, such as if you were discussing it with the contractor who built your house in the first place.

  • 1
    I'll grant that My house's roof collapsed yesterday is in principle acceptable, but in practice it would be extremely unlikely. Firstly because the only roof most people have is the one over their house, so there's no real need to specify it. But more importantly, house's is a bit of a mouthful, so you'd tend to avoid it in contexts where an ordinary "noun adjunct" form would be just as syntactically valid: My house roof collapsed. We normally use that form in contexts like My car radio doesn't work. Mar 22 '17 at 17:39
  • The indefinite article could also be used: A house's roof collapsed yesterday. That would be fine in a context such as: We've been having bad weather in our town. A house's roof collapsed yesterday. I might not know who the house belongs to; I may have just driven by and noticed the collapsed roof.
    – J.R.
    Mar 22 '17 at 17:48
  • Personally, I would say, "the house roof collapsed yesterday". This is assuming it had been made clear which house was being referred to. I probably wouldn't use house's. (I am not an expert and have no formal qualifications. I offer my advice only as a native British English speaker)
    – RedPython
    Mar 22 '17 at 17:56
  • 2
    If it was my house, I would just say "my roof". Otherwise, for separate structures, I agree "the boathouse roof" or "the guesthouse roof" sounds best, but then so does "the toolshed's roof".
    – Andrew
    Mar 22 '17 at 18:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .