To express meanings “The car of Tom” and “One of the cars of Tom”, which articles do I put before “Tom’s car”?

And in general, if an article appears before <somebody>’s <something>, which word does it belong to? Is it <somebody> or <something>?

  • In general, you can't put an article before a noun with a Saxon genitive, because syntactically both the genitive 's and the articles a, the are determiners, and usually you can only have one determiner for a noun. Jan 30, 2016 at 18:22
  • I guess I shouldn't have used a noun in the examples. "Man's" would has been a better choice Jan 31, 2016 at 7:01

1 Answer 1


"Tom's car" means "the car of Tom", and "Tom's" is a definite determiner, which functions like "the". If you want an indefinite, you have to use a different construction: "a car of Tom's".

An indefinite article can occur at the beginning of a possessive construction, e.g. "a man's car", but this is still a definite noun phrase, since it means "the car of a man" -- the indefinite "a" goes with "man", not "car", and "a man's" is a definite determiner.

In general, you can build a possessive definite determiner by adding "'s" to a noun phrase: "[the old man]'s car", "[a lady who I used to know]'s car". However, so far as I know, you can't make a possessive determiner from a nominalized sentence by adding "'s", even though it is a noun phrase.

  • Thank you Greg, great answer, exactly what I needed to know Jan 31, 2016 at 7:03

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