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Consider the following expression.

  • The book's page

Which of the following rewording express the above mentioned phrase correctly and in which contexts?

  1. A page of the book
  2. The page of the book

Note: The order in which I have written these is random and doesn't mean anything. If you feel one interpretation is a preferred over the other, kindly mention your preference order. If it is unchanged, you may mention that too.

Similarly for -

  • A book's page
  1. A page of a book
  2. The page of a book
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  • The choice of definite "the" vs indefinite "a" is dependent on whether the addressee is familiar with the page you are referring to. – BillJ Oct 16 '20 at 7:21
  • @BillJ but are both the interpretations valid according to you (considering the fact that the context will determine which is the appropriate one)? – Niranjan Oct 16 '20 at 7:24
  • Also if suppose you hear this phrase in a sentence out of context, e.g. A book's page has fallen on the ground., what will be your immediate interpretation, 1) or 2)? Note that there is no addressee in this sentence. It's just a general sentence not particularly addressed to any person. – Niranjan Oct 16 '20 at 7:33
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    I don't think a native speaker would ever say that. We would probably say "Look! A page from a book has fallen on the ground." If we knew which book it was from, we would say "A page from the book", never "The book's page". – Kate Bunting Oct 16 '20 at 8:32
  • @KateBunting What are your thoughts about jla's answer? Would you mind adding this as an answer? Also when you say "native speakers" won't say this, can you please specify which variety are you talking about? i.e. British or American? – Niranjan Oct 16 '20 at 9:03
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Each article is attached to the noun it immediately precedes. All of the phrases are grammatically correct; which one is actually correct depends on what you mean.

  • a page of a book - any page of any book.

  • a page of the book - any page of this specific book

  • the page of a book - this specific page of any book

  • the page of the book - this specific page of this specific book

Which one is meant by "the book's page.." or "a book's page.." is dependent on context. The article for "page" is not specified so it could be either. The context in which the sentence is constructed would determine whether a specific page or any page is being referred to.

Without any context I might assume that if you knew what specific book you were talking about you would also know what specific page you were talking about. So if you really want an answer, "the book's page.." sounds specific and may be more likely to mean "the page of the book", and "a book's page.." sounds general and may be more likely to mean "a page of a book".

As to whether you would say "a page from the book" or "the book's page" - again, this is dependent on the context of the situation and whether the page or the book was more important. Often we place the noun that is more important towards the beginning, although this can easily change depending on intonation. "The book's page" has fewer words and rolls off the tongue more easily, but really, it depends on the nuance you wish to convey.

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  • Thanks for this answer. I am not a native speaker. So I'll go by what you say, but apparently @KateBunting just commented that native speakers don't use these phrases. So I am a bit confused. Can you specify which variety do you speak? – Niranjan Oct 16 '20 at 9:07
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    The answer is true for all English speakers. It does not depend on the region concerned. What Kate means (forgive me Kate) is that while these phrases are grammatical, they are not idiomatic. It's not the way people speak. – Ronald Sole Oct 16 '20 at 9:48
  • Also I would like to request you to go through my question again. It asks whether a particular expression leads to some interpretations or not. Your answer talks about the grammaticality of those interpretations. – Niranjan Oct 16 '20 at 9:48
  • @RonaldSole Thanks. Just to be very sure and not to miss any point I need to ask this the last time. Do you mean the two expressions I have mentioned may lead to the interpretations listed below them (for all English speakers)? – Niranjan Oct 16 '20 at 9:53
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    Despite believing that this is an excellent answer and despite having upvoted it, I have also given an answer due to the OP's continuing questions. My answering should not be interpreted as disagreement with the preceding answer. – Jeff Morrow Oct 16 '20 at 13:34
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A native speaker of English (UK or US) might refer to the book's cover, but never the book's page, because all books have multiple pages. We might say "A page of the book has fallen out" (the fact that it may get lost is, for the moment, more important than which page it is), or "Look at the page of the book with the list of names on it".

I can't tell you whether the book's page means a page of the book or the page of the book because, on its own, it doesn't really mean anything.

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  • Thanks for this answer. If no speaker would ever say the book's page, it must be ungrammatical, right? Also I didn't get your point regarding the book's page vs. the book's cover. Also what's your thought about a book's page then? Do you think it can be used in the normal speech? – Niranjan Oct 16 '20 at 13:20
  • Despite believing that this is an excellent answer and despite having upvoted it, I have also given an answer due to the OP's continuing questions. My answering should not be interpreted as disagreement with the preceding answer. – Jeff Morrow Oct 16 '20 at 13:35
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    The fact that a sentence is grammatical doesn't necessarily indicate that it has meaning. A book has only one cover but many pages which are all different, so we would normally want to refer to a particular page, usually by number. Everything I have said about the book's page applies equally to a book's page. – Kate Bunting Oct 16 '20 at 13:43
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There are two excellent answers already, but they do not seem to have fully answered the OP's questions.

The book's page

is grammatical but ambiguous unless prior context makes clear which specific page is intended. In the absence of clues from prior context, a native speaker would be very unlikely to say it. It is not idiomatic in most circumstances.

It may mean

a specific but unidentified page in a specific and identified book

or

any typical page in a specific and identified book

Thus, the phrase is, in the absence of additional context, virtually meaningless and would not be idiomatic.

The book's fourth page is

makes clear which specific page is being discussed. Or

Most of he book's pages are

makes clear that we are talking about a typical page. Or

Some of the book's pages are

makes clear that we are making no claim about all of the pages.

All of the book's pages are

makes clear that every page is intended.

If you are asking whether

The book's page

is confusing, the answer is yes, which exactly why it is not idiomatic except in unusual circumstances. If you are asking whether English has the tools to disambiguate that phrase, the answer is "YES.

You seem to be looking for a difficulty that no native speaker over three years old will ever experience.

EDIT: The fact that this specific phrase is not idiomatic does not make it ungrammatical

The school's playground

is idiomatic on the presumption that the school in question has only one playground. Grammar deals with patterns. There are grammatical patterns in English (as I have pointed out above) to deal with a wide variety of situations involving the Saxon genitive. Being idiomatic means choosing the correct pattern for the situation.

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  • Great job! Thank you so much. I think this clears all of my doubts. – Niranjan Oct 16 '20 at 13:42

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