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When should one use the following one over another?

  • The plays of Shakespeare will always be classics.

  • Shakespeare's plays will always be classics.

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It is a 'rule of thumb' found in many English textbooks that one should use possessive nouns for living things and "of" for inanimate objects.

For example:

Living things/people:

  • My wife's sister
  • The dog's bed

Inanimate objects:

  • The bottom of the stairs
  • The foot of the bed

Following this "rule" would mean "Shakespeare's plays" is the preferred option, although it doesn't mean that the alternative is not correct. "The plays of Shakespeare" is an often-cited example to disprove this rule of thumb, however this ngram shows that it is the most widely used of the two.

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  • By "most widely used", do you mean "less widely used"? (The ngram appears to show that "the plays of Shakespeare" is less widely used than "Shakespeare's plays".)
    – rjpond
    Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 18:05

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