In the book 'PRACTICAL ENGLISH USAGE', we have the following statement in section 142.12:

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I couldn't quite understand why the first and second sentences would be grammatically incorrect if we used the definite article 'the', but the use of the article in the third sentence is perfectly acceptable.

Could someone explain this to me a little more clearly? Thank you.

1 Answer 1


Possessives function as determiners of nouns. Normally a noun only has a single determiner:

the coats - my coats - some coats - Jack's coats.

It would be wrong to say "the my coats" or "Jack's some coats", and "Jack's the coats" is also wrong.

As "Jack" is a proper noun, "the Jack" would also be wrong. But "boss" is a common noun, and "the boss" is correct.

So "The Jack's" is wrong but "The boss's" is correct, and that correct determative phrase can be used to make "the boss's coats". In this phrase, "the" is the determiner of "boss's" and "the boss's" is the determiner of "coats". Each noun has one determiner, and this is correct grammar.

For the same reason "Jack's boss's coats" is also correct, but "Boss's Jack's coats" would be wrong.

  • Thank you for the response, James. Now it all makes sense. Have a great day. Mar 19, 2023 at 20:43
  • 1
    You're welcome.
    – James K
    Mar 19, 2023 at 20:47

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