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Are both of these sentences grammatically correct?

a. He heard singing from the other room. It was a woman's beautiful voice.
b. He heard singing from the other room. It was the beautiful voice of a woman.

Is there any difference in their meanings?

I find b perfectly natural. In theory there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with a, but it sounds strange. To me it suggest that the woman has many voices and she's using the beautiful one. But that interpretation is so far-fetched that it wouldn't cross anyone's mind unless they were overthinking matters, as I am!

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  • I'm in no way a professional in English, but I think that (a) and (b) have same meaning. You may think the woman has many voices because of the "a", compared to "the." But in theory they are both the same, though (b) sounds natural to me as well. – FruDe Jan 4 at 23:27
  • b) sounds better to me because its rhythm sounds more aesthetically pleasing than a). And in the sort of writing you seem to be aiming for, that makes all the difference. – Prime Mover Jan 4 at 23:39
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It was the beautiful voice of a woman.

This is the better option because you haven't seen the woman yet, you've only heard her. The focus of the statement is the sound, so it makes sense that you say you heard the voice of a woman rather than a woman's voice.

Also, as the woman is singing, you'll find it is far more common with statements about music to refer to the sound first. For example, it is much more idiomatic to say "I like the sound of the drums" than "I like the drums' sound".

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To add to what people have already said, it also adds emphasis by describing the the voice first, before getting into the more mundane details of who owns it etc. Starting with that info and then getting into the evocative description loses a bit of impact. You also lose the mystery of gradually revealing the truth by just throwing it out there immediately.

Compare:

  • She was suddenly startled by a sound directly in her left ear. It was the unmistakable, terrifying growl of a hungry velociraptor!
  • She was suddenly startled by a sound directly in her left ear. It was a hungry velociraptor, growling in an unmistakable and terrifying way!

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