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Which is the correct way to paraphrase the sentence using the possessive case:

  • Everyday at noon we have a break, which lasts fifteen minutes.

a) Every day at noon we have a fifteen minutes' break.

b) Every day at noon we have fifteen minutes' break.

thank you in advance for your attention to the question above.

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    Option b. If you want to use a, say "...a fifteen minute break".
    – nnnnnn
    Jun 1, 2016 at 12:36
  • Could you tell me, please, am I right to think that Option b. is correct, as fifteen minutes in plural, so there is no need for article?
    – MarySpirit
    Jun 1, 2016 at 12:42
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    'Break' is singular. "Fifteen minutes" is an adjective describing the break.
    – Chenmunka
    Jun 1, 2016 at 12:46
  • @Chenmunka yes, that's why I'm confused=\ as I thought that there should be article A as the break is singular.
    – MarySpirit
    Jun 1, 2016 at 12:48
  • Every day at noon we have a fifteen minute break. Jun 2, 2016 at 4:29

2 Answers 2

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Of your two options, the correct answer is b: "Every day at noon we have fifteen minutes' break."

An alternative wording would be "a fifteen-minute break", but "fifteen minutes' break" is correct, too.

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A determiner answers the question "which?"

Since a possessive in front of a noun answers that question, it assumes the function of a determiner and normally "takes the place" of an article, etc.

I took the ball - I took Sally's ball (article not needed).

When adjectives are involved, the determiner comes first, then the adjectives, then the noun.

I took the red ball - I took Sally's red ball.

But the premise of your question is wrong. Because this really does not make sense:

I took fifteen minutes' break.

It does not make sense for "break" to "belong" to anything called "fifteen minutes"

However, "fifteen minutes" (plural, not possessive) can modify break to describe the type of break. And you would use a determiner/article as you would without the modifier.

I took a fifteen minutes break.

Even so, this sounds better:

I took a fifteen minute break.

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  • thank you for your detailed answer. But it raised more questions. I have a book on English grammar by Russian authors and it says that the use of the possessive case retains not only the meaning of belonging and possession but also measure (an hour's trip, a mile's distance). As an axample I found this article dailymail.co.uk/health/article-185715/… May be the catch is that there are two variants: British and American?
    – MarySpirit
    Jun 1, 2016 at 12:59
  • You can say an hour's trip but you cannot say a five hour's trip. You would say a five hour trip instead.
    – LawrenceC
    Jun 1, 2016 at 13:00
  • I thought it should be five hours' trip >_< Thanks!
    – MarySpirit
    Jun 1, 2016 at 13:03
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    Why is "fifteen minutes' break" wrong when the following are all correct: I gave them two weeks' notice. In two years' time. Fifty dollars' worth.
    – nnnnnn
    Jun 1, 2016 at 20:58

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