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If I am an insane person wanting to buy a corner of some building, can I say:

I want to buy a building's corner?

Or it should necessarily be said like:

I want to buy a corner of some building?

I mean can we create the possession forms ('s) for non-alive objects?

If it's alive ones, we can:

I want to by my father's car

etc.

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    books.google.com/ngrams/… suggests corner of a/the building occurs around 100 times more frequently than your suggestion. There is no rule, but yes, in general you can append '(s) to non-living things. Sometimes using a noun to modify another noun is more common (car keys), and other times the of thing is the most natural. – userr2684291 Apr 17 at 13:31
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Yes, you can use possessives (which aren't always about possession per se) where the 'possessor' is inanimate.

My car's windscreen needs replacing.

Indeed, the possessive pronoun its is basically used with animals, abstract entities, and inanimate objects as antecedents.

In the specific case you mention, it would not be natural. There's no reason. Sometimes the genitive 's is more natural, and sometimes an of construction is more natural. You just have to learn it from experience.

  • So, the choice of "the building's corner" and "a corner of the building" isn't about formal or informal, they are the same? – Michael Azarenko Apr 17 at 14:08
  • @MichaelAzarenko: They are the same, and you would say the building's corner or the corner of the building interchangeably, but you wouldn't normally say "a building's corner", it's just not natural. – SamBC Apr 17 at 14:09
  • The main thing if it's not incorrect:) – Michael Azarenko Apr 17 at 14:12
  • What do you mean by 'correct'? – SamBC Apr 17 at 14:15
  • It's like it can exist in grammar. "He work" can't, it's incorrect. "He's working" - informal but correct. And our "the building's corner" is though not very natural but correct gramatically Correct grammatically or grammatically correct...? – Michael Azarenko Apr 17 at 14:19
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Yes, your sentence is possible. (It's certainly grammatical.)

However, the common interpretation of the first sentence is not what you think it is (and it's not because of the possessive).

I want to buy a building's corner.

I've never heard of people buying just the corner of a building before. So, if I heard this I would interpret it differently:

I want to buy the corner of the block on which a building stands.

In this interpretation, the building's corner is referring to something else—although still something that's associated with it.


To make it explicitly clear that it's the physical component of the building, you could say:

I don't want to buy the entire building. I just want to buy one of its corners.

Or, possibly:

I want to buy the building's southwest corner and all of the offices therein.

Again, the possessive is fine—it's the subject being referenced that needs clarification.


But if you use a different particular sentence, this type of confusion won't exist—and the regular possessive can easily be used:

The building's windows were broken.
I want to paint the building's hallway walls.
The storm flooded the building's lobby.

  • It's okay, it's buying just the corner because if I am the insane person :D I wanted to ask about grammar having made out some weird example:) – Michael Azarenko Apr 17 at 14:49

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