7

I have often heard people say "x of his" or "x of mine". But since his and mine point out ownership, isn't using "of" here doubles that ownership? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say "x of him" or "x of them" etc.?

Example:

I was a good friend of your dad's. He told me all about you`

6

Both

A friend of your dad

and

A friend of your dad's

are valid (at least in British English).

I think this only works when we are talking about one or more particular members of some group. For example, Pete may have many friends, so we can say

I met Mary, who is a friend of Pete's.

to mean the same as "I met Mary, one of Pete's friends". But assuming Pete has only one mother, we could say

I met Mary, who is the mother of Pete.

but we could not say

I met Mary, who is the mother of Pete's.

It might help to think of "a friend of Pete's" as an abbreviation for "a friend of Pete's friends", that is "someone who is one of Pete's friends".

EDIT: CopperKettle's 'picture' examples also provide a good case for the use of this construction!

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7

I was a good friend of your dad's.

We can remodel this sentence into

I was your dad's good friend.
- "Oh, when I'll write you down im my cell phone contact list as "Dad's friend".

Had we used the simple form dad instead of the "Saxon genitive" dad's, we would've wound up with:

I was your dad good friend.
- "Oh, when I'll write you down im my cell phone contact list as "Dad friend".

The wish to retain the "possessive form" in whatever construction it is used is probably the reason we (sometimes) use "friend of your dad's".

Oh, and there is a nice explanation at ELU SE's tag page for "Double Genitive":

[..] This produces opposing pairs of contrasting meaning, the simple form first and then the doubled form second with further added nuance of ownership:

  • a picture of me   vs.   a picture of mine
  • a picture of Sam   vs.   a picture of Sam’s
  • a picture of the town   vs.   a picture of the town’s

In the first of each pair above, the painting depicts a person or a town, whereas in the second, the painting is actually owned by a person or a town and says nothing about the subject depicted.

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  • 2
    Note that some linguists would prefer not to call this a "double genitive", since that gives the same name to the 's and of constructions even though they're quite different. – snailplane Nov 1 '14 at 20:13
  • Thanks for your observation, @snailboat. I've found that this construction is indeed seen by some linguists as "partitive genitive or an appositive genitive". – CowperKettle Nov 2 '14 at 3:40
0

I would actually agree with you since "mine" is, in fact, showing ownership. Example: "Why did you eat my cheesecake?" I screeched. "That was supposed to be mine!"

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