Do you agree with the interpretation of the following three example sentences?

  1. I don't want to be involved in the problems of my boss.
    The boss probably deals with some problems. e.g. slow sales, product quality issue, customer complaint
  1. I don't want to be involved in my boss's problem.
    This implies a similar case as above one, but with only one problem.
  1. I don't want to be involved in the problem of my boss.
    Probably the boss himself has caused trouble. e.g. a misconduct

If you agree, then

Q1) Why is "my boss's problem" likely to mean that my boss has ONLY ONE problem?

Q2) why is "the problem of my boss" LESS LIKELY to mean that my boss has only one problem, but MORE LIKELY to mean that the boss himself probably has caused trouble?

  • [how come x? Very informal. Better: Why does x mean or Why is x likely to mean etc.]
    – Lambie
    Jul 25, 2020 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


Sounding like a native English speaker (any standard variety of English)

I disagree with the interpretation provided for this simple reason:

My boss's problem [singular] and My boss's problems [plural] are the simplest and most idiomatic way of expressing what ails the boss: one problem or more problems than one.

The "of the" point is just awkward. In actual speech, using the "of the" option here sounds non-native or non-idiomatic.

  • I don't want to be involved with my boss's problem OR boss's problems.
  • The problem of X implies a problem caused by, or concerning X e.g. the problem of evil, whereas X's problem means a problem experienced by X. Jul 25, 2020 at 12:52
  • my boss's problem, my boss's problems, the problem or problems of my boss = all the same semantically except for one is singular and one is plural. . I don't think you can teach me anything here. Sorry. Your examples are not relevant here.
    – Lambie
    Jul 25, 2020 at 12:56
  • Well, that is how I understand the problem of X. Jul 25, 2020 at 18:22
  • And you no. 3. is most naturally expressed by the problem(s) with my boss.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 25, 2020 at 20:25
  • @ColinFine My number 3?? 1 and 3 are the same except for plural and singular. And "I don't want to be involved in the problem(s) with my boss." means something else.
    – Lambie
    Jul 25, 2020 at 23:03

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