13

Let's open https://www.gatesnotes.com/

The title of the site is "The blog of Bill Gates"

The title of the site

Why "The blog of Bill Gates" and not "The Bill Gates' blog"?

Is it the possessive case or not?

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Dec 20 '18 at 4:41

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

20

*The Bill Gates’ blog

is wrong. When there is a possessive case or a possessive adjective before a noun, no article is used.

Bill Gates’ blog

is acceptable.

We now understand that “The blog of Bill Gates” and “Bill Gates’ blog” are both acceptable.

Which one is prefered?

To my taste, the possessive case is prefered when the owner description is short (a single noun or name), e.g. “Bill’s blog”; and “of + owner” is prefered when the owner is described by a long(er) name or phrase.

Also, “of + owner” puts slightly more stress on the ownership than the possessive case. As Connor Harris mentions in a comment below, this is a specific case of the general rhetorical rule that the most emphatic item in a statement should be placed at the end.

And lastly, if one wants to stress that there is only one blog of Bill Gates (and this is it), then one should use the only form that allows a definite article: “the + thing + of + owner”.

  • 16
    Personally I'd go for "Bill Gates's blog" over "Bill Gates' blog", but you are correct that for some reason "Bill Gates' blog" is acceptable to some people. – AndyT Dec 19 '18 at 9:55
  • 17
    @microenzo - Er, no. There are two competing schools of thought. See e.g. this answer where it is shown that in US English including the s has been the more common form for quite a long time. Also see this answer which gives a good rule: add the s after the apostrophe if you pronounce an extra /əz/. – AndyT Dec 19 '18 at 10:12
  • 9
    Therefore, the correct answer is... it saves having people argue over how it's pronounced & whether there should be an extra 's' on the end ;) – Tetsujin Dec 19 '18 at 10:30
  • 9
    @microenzo I personally would pronounce the extra syllable, lest it should sound like Mr Gate's blog. – Deonyi Dec 19 '18 at 10:30
  • 20
    You could have "The Bill Gates Blog" - no apostrophe, in the same way you could have "The Daily Telegraph Blog" – Tetsujin Dec 19 '18 at 10:41
14

Adhemer's answer covers almost everything, but it's worth adding that "The X of Y" tends to sound grander than "Y's X". It sounds like a given title, implying that this is something special, noteworthy and unique.

"The Sceptre of the King" sounds natural (as does "The King's Sceptre"), whereas if someone talked about "The overcoat of Bob Smith", I'd think there must be some special story to this particular overcoat.

Bill Gates is famous enough that it sounds natural to call his blog "The blog of Bill Gates", but if I called mine "The blog of User 568458", it'd sound a little pretentious.


So to summarise:

  • X's Y e.g. Bill Gates's Blog (or Bill Gates' Blog, both are acceptable if the word ends in 's' and isn't a plural)
    • Versatile, not particularly formal
    • Could be one of many, for example this could be his general blog and there might also be "Bill Gates' music blog"
  • The Y of X e.g. The Blog of Bill Gates
    • Sounds formal and grand, carrying an implication that this is something the listener may have heard of
    • Implies uniqueness - that this is the only blog of Bill Gates (or, the true or definitive blog of Bill Gates)
    • Potentially ambiguous about the relationship between X and Y. Blog implies authorship, but the same construction can have other meanings, like origin ("The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch") or subject ("The definitive encyclopedia of The Beatles")
    • May sound strange in a casual context, even if it is something grand, e.g. a palace cleaner saying "Can you pass the King's Sceptre" sounds more natural than "Can you pass the Sceptre of the King". The latter sounds like the speaker has a reason to really emphasise that this is something special ("Be more careful when cleaning the Sceptre of the King!") or, wants to show off by association ("I cleaned the Sceptre of the King today!").
  • The X Y - e.g. The Bill Gates Blog
    • Is even more ambiguous about authorship, but implies that this is in some way definitive. For example, I would expect a blog called "The Bill Gates blog" to be an official blog about Bill Gates, written by one or more members of his staff - and that Bill Gates would therefore not have a blog of his own that he wrote himself.
    • A Bill Gates fan might call their unofficial blog about Bill Gates "The Bill Gates blog", but it would sound pretentious unless they had some strong grounds to claim that it was the most definitive blog about Bill Gates (for example, if they were a personal confidant).
2

As someone with a name ending in the letter 's', I can say that I don't like the confusion caused by the possessive apostrophe added at the end in such cases.

And I don't like the .. sez sound on the end or the alternative of leaving it off.

That doesn't say anything about correct usage, but it may explain a preference. (It may be something Bill and I have in common.)

1

I think that "The blog of Bill Gates" is preferable to "Bill Gates' blog" (or Bill Gates's blog") because the latter could be read as being a blog about Bill Gates, rather than written by him.

Consider an "iPhone app blog" or a "Indie music blog". These are blogs about subjects, and cannot of course be written by an Iphone app or by some indie music. Similarly, blogs can be about people, but not written by them: for example,

"Top 10 Donald Trump Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2019" - https://blog.feedspot.com/donald_trump_blogs/

None of the listed blogs are written by Donald Trump, but they are referred to as "Donald Trump blogs".

"The blog of Bill Gates" helps to disambiguate this situation.

  • 2
    I would still be open the idea of 'the blog of Bill Gates' being written about Mr Gates. The two constructions convey the exact same semantic and connotational meanings to me. You are conflating the idea of a 'Donald Trump blog' with 'Donald Trump's blog'. The clitic is important here. – Deonyi Dec 19 '18 at 10:36
  • 8
    Bill Gates' blog is clear and cannot be misinterpreted - it is identically equal to "The Blog of Bill Gates". A blog about Bill Gates might be titled The Bill Gates Blog, but it could not be titled Bill Gates' Blog. – J... Dec 19 '18 at 13:04
  • @Deonyi both, or any other, options could be interpreted in various ways. My point is simply that "The blog of Bill Gates" is less likely to be misinterpreted. – Max Williams Dec 19 '18 at 14:08
  • 1
    @MaxWilliams It cannot be correctly misinterpreted. How's that? – J... Dec 19 '18 at 14:23
  • 4
    My intuition as a native speaker is exactly the opposite of what this answer says. "Bill Gates's blog" unambiguously means "the blog written by Bill Gates", whereas "the blog of Bill Gates" could conceivably mean "the blog about Bill Gates". – Tanner Swett Dec 19 '18 at 14:33

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.