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Is this sentence correct?

  • Which pencil of mine did you take?

or is it grammatically wrong and I should say, “Which of my pencils did you take” which I am sure is grammatically correct? “Which pencil of mine” sounds like it may be grammatically wrong to me maybe unless you feel the need to specify who the pencil belongs to in the middle of the sentence.

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There is nothing wrong grammatically with “pencils of mine” instead of “my pencils.” It is stilted and awkward in such a sentence as your example. One use of the construction that does not appear awkward is when giving emphasis

Those books of mine were not only worth a great deal of money, but are also my only physical mementos of my grandfather.

Here, “of mine” is used to emphasize the relationship between me and “those books” in a context where emphasis seems appropriate.

Language that does sounds odd in a certain context may do so because it is inappropriate in that context even though it is strictly grammatical.

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  • It's just about possible to contrive contexts where Which pencil of mine did you take? wouldn't sound too "quirky". Specifically, that would be contexts where the actual word mine was being given heavy stress (most likely because addressee also took pencils from other people, but speaker is focused on his pencil). I'm sure most native speakers would still just put the stress on Which of my pencils did you take? anyway, but the "less favoured" version doesn't sound too bad to me there. May 7 at 11:43
  • So you say Which of my pencils is better in a context where I don’t need to emphasize the owner but of mine is still usable though being stilted? May 7 at 12:04
  • @FumbleFingers I agree. I was not trying to place bounds on the context where the usage would seem appropriate to most careful native speakers. I was simply trying to indicate what I believe is the most common normal usage, namely emphasizing the relationship between person and thing. Do you think my response needs clarification? May 7 at 12:05
  • @FireandIce Yes, you have it although maybe it would be better to say “quite stilted.” May 7 at 12:08
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    @FumbleFingers Thanks. I think the comment is fine. Anyone who reads answer and comment with any intelligence will understand that linguistic boundaries are murky. Our audience does after all understand language, just not necessarily the nuances of English. May 7 at 13:32

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