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When to prefer the former and when the latter? Example sentence (with context):

When Mary heard about oocyte cryopreservation, which consists of freezing your eggs to be used when you need them, she commented, "I don't want to put my eggs in a fridge like a chicken's/those of a chicken"

  • Alternative: "I don't want someone to put my eggs in a fridge as if I were a chicken" – mplungjan Dec 16 '17 at 8:18
  • @mplungjan That's an improvement in clarity, but I'd argue it's too much of a change in connotation, especially for reported speech. Do we think Mary is worried about herself or her potential offspring? – joiedevivre Dec 16 '17 at 19:48
  • Herself obviously - like a chicken – mplungjan Dec 16 '17 at 20:25
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Using the possessive here sounds much more natural. To use the other expression, you need to say "those of," because it's referring to eggs, which is plural.

I don't want to put my eggs in a fridge like those of a chicken.

This is grammatical and understandable, but sounds a little stilted. Since your question was "when to prefer" this usage, I'm trying to think of a time when I might prefer it, but my imagination is failing me. The only thing I can think of is if I were trying to write a story with an extremely proper or curmudgeonly character in it, I might actually want her speech to sound like this.

  • So, just to be clear, "like a chicken's" is correct? I'm mean, I'm wondering about the article. "A chicken's eggs" is not correct, that should be "chicken's eggs" without "a". Isn't the same true here? – Mr Lister Dec 16 '17 at 14:07
  • I don't consider A chicken's eggs to be incorrect, nor have I ever read anything that suggested it was. The indefinite article is certainly required in this context. By far, the most common thing to call these is just eggs. If you need to specify, in most contexts, you'd say chicken eggs —no article or possessive. So maybe you are confused about something you learned about this in another context. This usage is different in interesting ways, but this is a separate question! – joiedevivre Dec 16 '17 at 19:41
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Either form could be criticised for separating the eggs from the chicken. Are we talking about the chichen's eggs or the chicken's fridge? But it's difficult to suggest an alternative word order that wouldn't be laughably clumsy. And no-one is really going to think a chicken owns a fridge! No, stick with 'like a chicken's'. Reported speech doesn't have to read like a legal document.

It wasn't long ago that we stopped using 'fridge - with an apostrophe - to indicate the contraction of 'refrigerator' (not sure where the 'd' went though). I rather miss it, along with (omni)'bus and (violon)'cello.

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