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I have been watching the television drama "The Night Of", and I am not sure how the title should be understood: I can't find another example of a phrase where the preposition "of" is used without a noun or pronoun after it.

  1. is "the night of" a common phrase, or an idiom ? What does it mean ?
  2. Or is just an abbreviated form for "the night of something" (no spoilers intended, but it would be here eg "the night of the murder") ?
  • Because English has no genitive case, we indicate possession in two ways. We add an apostrophe and an "s" to the noun (night's) or we use the preposition of (night of). The phrase The night of June 29th means phrase The night belonging to June 29th. The title refers to any night in which the drama is set. – P. E. Dant Jun 30 '17 at 6:19
  • OK, thanks. How would you use "the night of" (short form, not eg in "the night of June 29th") in an everyday conversation ? – Greg Jun 30 '17 at 7:02
  • The expression will seldom be heard in common conversation. Today, It would only be seen in titles of films or news headlines. Instead of "The Night of Saturday, June 29th" you would hear "Saturday night, the 29th" or "Saddy night yo." The phrase "The night of" by itself would of course never be heard in conversation unless in reference to the television drama. – P. E. Dant Jun 30 '17 at 7:10
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I wouldn't call it a frequently used idiom, but I do hear it used occasionally. I estimate I go months at a time without hearing it, however. (This is in the northeastern U.S.)

For example:

"When did you buy your tux for the wedding?"

"I waited until the night of."

There's an absent, implied "the wedding" or even "the wedding itself" -- the formulation tends to further emphasize a bit that something happened (maybe even contrary to expectation) on the very night or day of a significant event. If spoken, it helps make the idiomatic usage clearer if a very slight pause follows, to emphasize that something has been bitten off, and likewise in written text, it's generally situated before a comma or period.

I think I usually hear it describing something happening on the same say or night of an event, but in advance of the event itself.

For example:

"On the day of, we took a good last look at the house, knowing we would never see it again."

I think I've usually just heard it used with a time span like night, day, evening, or morning, but not time units like month, year, etc. Like I said, it emphasizes that something happened nearly contemporaneously, so longer time units don't fit. It also wouldn't be used with hour, minute, second, or moment.

As it's something that also appears as a substring of more common constructions, searching for examples can be probably be best done by appending words that wouldn't otherwise follow. For example, search for "on the day of we went"

However, perhaps the most frequent use is not alone but together with "the day before" and/or "the day after".

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"The Night of" is a TV-series in which every next episode tells a story that is related to the previous ones. Here "of" is used in the possessive case. The sentence is incomplete and grammatically incorrect standalone but as a title it makes sense since each episode can be "The night of whatever-is-going-to-happen-in-the-episode":

  • The night of the murder.
  • The night of the return of the murderer.
  • The night of the uprising in the city.

Edit: The IMDB says that the plot is "After a night of partying with a female stranger, a man wakes up to find her stabbed to death and is charged with her murder."

  • I am not sure we are talking about the same series, as in the one I have been watching, all episodes are related to each other and are sequential episodes of a single plot, where all revolves around what happened on a same night... This is the one I have been watching: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Of. In any case, your comment confirms that the title would not make any sense if it was used as a stand-alone phrase - this is what puzzled me. – Greg Jun 30 '17 at 13:29
  • @Greg don't worry, we are referring to the same TV-series. It's just that I didn't watch it. – SovereignSun Jun 30 '17 at 13:34
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It would be your second thought. This is an abbreviation of "the night of the murder." So yes, "The Night Of" first and foremost is short for that. However, "the murder" is intentionally omitted from the title. This gives the title an ambiguity that allows for the scope of show to explore many of the facets of what happened that night, and not just the murder itself.

Given that legal proceedings also play heavily into the plot of the show, there is even more to unwrap with the choice of the title. Even if we expanded it to, "The Night of the Murder," it would still be an abbrieviation for a line of questioning used by lawyers to establish (or disprove) an alibi or statement of the events taking place over the timeline of a crime. A common opening question as a lawyer examines a witness would be either:

Where were you (on) the night of [the murder/the accident/Monday June 23rd]?

or

What were you doing (on) the night of the murder?

Take a look at some of the quotes that show up in that book search. Some are from fiction, which might be more in line with the script for a TV drama, but some are from actual court transcripts, which indicate that this phrasing has its roots in the actual practice of law. In fact, one of the examples comes straight from a book intended to help lawyers in learning how to form good questions.

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