1. My sister's house

2. The house of my sister.

3. A house of my sister's.

Am I right when assuming that the phrase 1 and 2 indicate that my sister owns or lives just in one house whilst the third with double genitive contains the possibility of more houses? – Is there any semantic difference between "my sister's house" and "the house of my sister"?

  • The (3) doesn't sound right for some reason... The "of" in it is nagging to be replaced with "that is"... (itching for a qualified answer) Oct 16, 2015 at 15:52
  • 1
    @VictorBazarov It's fine in the right context, but I imagine that context would be fairly rare. Most people don't have all that many houses.
    – user230
    Oct 17, 2015 at 16:32
  • There is no difference between genitive 1 and 2. Of course, the s-genitive with persons is more frequent as it is shorter. But generally any s-genitive can be changed to an of-genitive.
    – rogermue
    Dec 16, 2015 at 17:56
  • There's a nice bit of info on the double genitive tag page Mar 15, 2016 at 19:17

3 Answers 3


As Alan Carmack says, only (1) would be in common use, and it doesn't necessarily mean that the sister has only one house. " Your phrase (2), "The house of my sister" sounds weird, possibly archaic, to native English speakers. They would never use it in a sentence like "I'm going over to my sister's house." I can't think of any notable semantic difference between the two phrases, though, and both are grammatical.

Your phrase (3), "A house of my sister's," is indefinite, but it still sounds weird to me. If I needed to indicate that the sister had other houses, I would say "one of my sister's houses."


No, your assumption is incorrect. "My sister" could own or live in more than one house (although she probably wouldn't be living in >1 at the same time) and the term my sister's house could apply to one of several of your sister's houses.

A: I'm going over to my sister's house. B: Which one? The one she's had for 25 years or the one she just bought?

The house of my sister can be used pretty much anywhere that my sister's house can be, except it isn't–that is, it's a rare form that sounds stilted.

A house of my sister's can indicate that your sister has more than one house, but not because of "the (double) genitive" but because of the indefinite article. You can also say The house of my sister's and still be talking about the one house that your sister owns or lives in, or only one of them. You are now in the realm of articles, not possession or "the genitive" (which is a term borrowed from some other language and which only roughly applies to modern English, which has no real case system, as is indicated partially by the fact that we rarely say your phrase 2).

  • Almost all the terms in English grammar were borrowed mainly from Latin or French and English needed the term because it was used broadly in the past. I don't understand what makes you think "rarely saying No. 2" has anything to do with the demise of the old case system in English. The reason why we don't use "the house of my sister's" is it's completely redundant and useless and there is no reason to use it in place of "my sister's house". english.stackexchange.com/questions/50588/…
    – user24743
    May 15, 2016 at 9:00
  • @Ranthony I'm not interested in the way you speak or understand English. The we you speak of in your comments & answers do not interest me. (A) Native speakers do say the house of my sister's (which is a version of No. 3 and not No. 2); (B) redundancy is not useless in English, it is used for emphasis; and (C) I know from which languages grammatical terms such as genitive originate. I'm not impressed with your grasp of English–which is often at odds with native speakers–you have demonstrated multiple times on ELL that you are not teachable & I will rarely respond to any comment of yours. May 15, 2016 at 14:59

First, you are correct about the first 2 phrases that they imply that she owns only 1 house, and the 3rd one implies that she may or may not have multiple houses.

On your 2nd question, there are some slight differences. For example the first one only implies that she owns one house, she owns it and she lives in it. But the 2nd one could imply that she owns it, but doesn't live in it. the house of my sister (It's of her or from her) Maybe she built it or is trying to sell it for example.

The house of my sister's business.

The house (made) of my sister's own hands.

Those are some of the things number 2 could imply were number 1 would not.

  • 1
    And note that "the house of my sister" would be a very uncommon formulation in conversational English. Even if your sister doesn't own the house but just lives there, it would still be common to call it "her house," or maybe "her place," or maybe "the house my sister is renting." Generally "house of __________" is used in English (at least in my experience) when the word in the blank is a concept, not a person, e.g., "a house of worship," "house of blues."
    – vstrong
    Oct 16, 2015 at 19:39
  • From your blockquote: The house of my sisters business. - did you mean to put an apostrophe there somewhere? The second sentence there also seems to need it... Oct 16, 2015 at 20:17
  • 1
    I'm sort of creeped out by your second sentence... which is implying that the house is literally made out of your sister's hands... which is really gross and not at all what I believe you're trying to say.
    – Catija
    Nov 16, 2015 at 16:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .