I know 's is a contraction for indicating possession, but I've always wondered which cases it is correct to put 's after the word in. For instance, if I would to indicate the color of a car, how could I do so?

  1. The car's color is red.

  2. The color of the car is red.

  3. The car color is red.

I know options 1 and 2 are correct, but is the third option correct as well?

3 Answers 3


Largely agree with @MackTuesday, won't repeat his answer. But let me add:

You can often use a noun as an adjective to mean things that are of a type associated with that thing. Like a "dog collar" is a collar of a type normally used on dogs, an "air filter" is a filter used with air, etc.

So a "car color" would most logically mean a color of a type associated with cars. Like, "Common car colors are white, gray, and green." It would not be absurd to say, "We painted our house in a car color", meaning, you painted your house in a color that is more often associated with cars. This would be similar in meaning to saying, "We painted our house with car paint." That's perfectly valid and correct. (Well, it's perfectly valid and correct grammar. Whether it's valid home maintenance is another question.)

So in your example, I think your sentence #3 is valid and meaningful. Though as Mack says, it's an awkward phrasing. I think most fluent English speakers would say, "I don't like chartreuse as a color for a car."

  • Actually I also have problem with such phrases and gave my justifications in my answer, but how you justify using "the book chapters", could it mean "the chapters of the book". If yes, then when its an exact possession equivalent and when just a type or class?
    – Ahmad
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 20:11
  • 1
    Personally, I wouldn't use the phrase "book chapters" unless I was trying to distinguish from other types of chapters, like, "No, I don't mean the chapters of the club, I mean the book chapters. If I wanted to talk about the chapters in a book, I'd call them "the chapters of the book" or "the book's chapters".
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 21:53

The third option is technically correct but awkward. I can think of two rare situations in which "car color" is a good way to express a concept:

I don't like chartreuse as a car color.

This is good only because it's more concise than the arguably preferable

I don't like chartreuse as the color of a car.

An even better way of saying this is:

I think cars look bad in chartreuse.

Another possibility would be if there were a class of colors that were found only on cars, in which case "car color" would be the best way to put it. Of course this doesn't happen in practice.

  • OP's example uses the definite article, "the". Imagine a police officer hearing from dispatch to be on the lookout for a 2010 Volkswagen Passat. The officer might radio back and say with impatience in his voice: "What's the car color?" and thereby mean "the color of the car is an important (and expected) datum in such radio advisories -- you should really have supplied it!".
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 12:48

When you say car color, you use "car" as an adjective, it sometimes works to mean a possession phrase but not always.

Possession is often used for two instances of objects where one belongs to another, there is a car and it has a door, then you say "the car's door"

But in adjectives, you speak about one thing, for example if I say the "closed door", I am speaking about a door that is closed. Then if I say "a car door", I am speaking about a "door" which somehow is related to a car or cars, "car" is an adjective (a type or class), though its not a good adjective like it is "closed door"

As another example, for a book you may say "the book's chapters", "the chapters of the book" or maybe "the book chapters". In the latter case, which is not precise, "book" is adjective for "chapters" but the phrase could means "the chapters that belong or exist in a book". However, you can't say this for "car color". For example maybe "the color that is used for cars"?! If so, as the other answer pointed it may have some usages like:

I don't like chartreuse as a car color.

But it's not exactly an equivalent for "the car's color"

  • It's not supposed to be. Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 19:56
  • @MackTuesday Yes, I said that to the OP to be informed they are not two equivalents.
    – Ahmad
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 20:07

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