What relationship between the nouns 'service' and 'company' does the preposition 'of' serve to indicate in the below sentence?

He is in the service of the company.

In the sentence 'The house of Mary is large.', for example, the preposition 'of' indicates that 'the house' belongs to 'Mary'. The genitive may also be used to indicate this relationship (and this use is indeed more common): 'Mary's house is large'.

  • 'The house of Mary is large.', for example, the preposition 'of' indicates that 'the house' belongs to 'Mary'. This is simply wrong. Not only is it not idiomatic but the "of" merely indicates some sort of association between Mary and the house. 'Mary's house is large'. This does not indicate possession either. Likewise, the genitive 's' does not indicate possession.
    – user81561
    Sep 4, 2021 at 17:57
  • 1
    To be "in the service of" something/someone means to work for that thing/person.
    – cruthers
    Sep 4, 2021 at 18:26
  • ... Yes, it is argably more constructive to see 'in the service of' as unitary, with 'of' a transitivising ... it will be particle (an orthographic-word part of the phrase) rather than preposition. 'Beholden to' is a similar (but archaic) multi-word construct. Sep 4, 2021 at 18:30
  • @Greybeard while it is true that the use of both the genitive and 'of' in the above sentence does not entail that the house belongs to Mary, it strongly implicates it (or not?). (Admittedly, however, the verb 'indicate' may suggest entailment instead of implication; the misunderstanding was perhaps on my part. Apologies.)
    – Ben
    Sep 4, 2021 at 19:26
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    To start with, the house of Mary sounds like the name of a convent, or a hair studio. If you're talking about Mary's house, say so. The original question about the idiomatic phrase in the service of does not really have any semantic relationship indicated by of; it's just a preposition, a piece of the machinery. Sep 4, 2021 at 21:16

2 Answers 2



Another term can be possessive but it denotes 'of' someone/thing to someone/thing. An apostrophe is used in English to show this, before the 's' for singular and afterwards for plural. Watch out for contractions though like you're, your's and your.

  • 1
    The term genitive is best reserved for an inflectional case of a noun, as in "Ed's car". The of PP is not a genitive constituent, but simply a complement of the head noun.
    – BillJ
    Sep 5, 2021 at 10:17

He is in the service of the company = He is in the company's service.

The company can say that he is someone in their service.

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