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  1. My pet's body size is like that of a rabbit's.

  2. My pet's body size is like that of a rabbit.

Which is correct?

5

They both sound as good as each other and both sound slightly awkward. A more natural way to express this is

"My pet is about the size of a rabbit."

However, you'd be unlikely to start a conversation like this, so you're probably already talking about your pet, so you'd probably say

"He/she/it's about the size of a rabbit."

  • Also, when you mention something about the size of an animal's body, rather than the animal as a whole, there is an implicit assumption that the animal has a significantly long tail (or possibly a trunk). You might describe a tiger as "having a 2 meter long body", or "3 meters long including the tail". – Steve Ives Jul 21 '15 at 9:39
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The tricky thing with possessives is they're not always hard and fast, as this BBC article states:

"This is a very difficult area to advise on… as it usually boils down to what sounds right is right." - BBC

The second option sounds more natural to me as a native speaker, but I'm not convinced there's anything grammatically wrong with the first option. It just feels awkward.

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Technically you can use a double possession but it should refer to different characteristics like in the following example:

the sound of a gun's shot.

The way your sentence is worded:

My pet's body size is like that of a rabbit's.

sounds redundant and should be avoided. It's like you were to say of of a rabbit.

Instead, your second example is OK:

My pet's body size is like that of a rabbit.

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The second is correct.

The first is incorrect for a reason that is not immediately obvious.

1.My pet's body size is like that of a rabbit's.

This can be considered an abbreviation of:

My pet's body size is like that of a rabbit's body size.

This looks plausible but more careful analysis shows that it means -

My pet's body size is like the body size of a rabbit's body size.

Given that a body size cannot itself have a body size, the logic of the sentence breaks down.

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There are two ways to say this and mean what you want to mean, assuming you want the subject of the sentence to be “my pet’s body size”.

  1. My pet’s body size is like that of a rabbit.
  2. My pet’s body size is like a rabbit’s.

Your first sentence is grammatically fine, but it’s highly unlikely to have your intended meaning.

Since the subject is a body size, that of can be substituted by ’s body size to get My pet’s body size is like a rabbit’s body size’s body size which is probably not what you’re trying to say (because body sizes don’t have body sizes).

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