You see just because you can work in a plain text editor and it is useful from time to time, doesn't mean you have to and you probably won't want to. Because with a basic text editor you're completely on your own writing the stuff and there are other applications that can actually help you write this code and make your life easier. First we have programmer's text editors. These are plain text editors with some extra features added on and there are many of them available on every platform. Some are free and some are commercial.

The singular forum, I presume, would be a programmer's text editor. And as far as I can see, even though the word programmer grammatically is in the possessive case, it doesn't really express possession. But rather it is used an an adjective to describe the compound noun text editor. And when we say a programmer's text editor, we don't mean that this is a text editor that belongs to somebody whose trade is computer programming, but rather when we say that we're really asking the following question: what kind of text editor is this? The answer is: programmer's or a programmer's one. Is my line of reasoning valid? Do you think I understand this type of grammar fine?

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    Consider as a parallel "artist's brushes". Generically, the sort of brushes used by artists (using Google will find many for sale), or specifically "an artist's brushes" meaning the brushes used by a particular artist.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 21:07
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    "As an adjective" isn't quite right―it's a genitive noun phrase. We can tell this by looking at its morphology and its syntactic distribution. But your idea is pretty close! What's important is that it's an attributive modifier, not a determiner, and that's what invites the comparison to an adjective. More specifically, this is what's called a "descriptive genitive" in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language; see page 470.
    – user230
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 9:21

2 Answers 2


Yes, you are absolutely correct. In fact, possessive words are always adjectival, but you are correct in identifying and making distinct this special non-possessive adjectival use of the possessive form.

It can be noted that this form of word is technically genitive {the text editor(s) of the programmer}, but descriptive genitives are adjectival, as they describe/modify a noun phrase.

If that last paragraph didn't make sense, don't worry about it too much. The thinking you expressed in your question is essentially, fundamentally (and I would argue completely) correct.


The possessive case can express something that is so much a characteristic of or associated with X that it might as well belong to X.

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