3. The legends of Sonia's book are fantastic

Solved exercise

After reading some legends in Sonia's book, Paco is having a look at his travel brochures and he finds out the following passage about one of the most famous sites in the world: Stonehenge. Undoubtedly, he will visit it when he travels to the United Kingdom. Read the passage.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometres (2.0 miles) west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres (8.1 miles) north of Salisbury. Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. Archaeologists had believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC. However one recent theory has suggested that the first stones were not erected until 2400-2200 BC, whilst another suggests that bluestones may have been erected at the site as early as 3000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. Stonehenge itself is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage.

New archaeological evidence found by the Stonehenge Riverside Project indicates that Stonehenge served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. The dating of cremated remains found that burials took place as early as 3000 BC, when the first ditches were being built around the monument. Burials continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years when the giant stones which mark the landmark were put up. According to Professor Mike Parker Pearson, head of Stonehenge Riverside Project

"Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C. The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge's sarsen stones phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument's use and demonstrates that it was still very much a domain of the dead."

From Wikipedia.org

In the passage, there are several Genitive Cases. Remember that the Genitive Case can be either a Saxon Genitive (Paco's sister) or an of-construction or Norman Genitive (the colours of the brochures) and that they are mainly used to express possession or origin.


Let's recognise some of the phrases in the Genitive Case which are included in the text.


Saxon Genitive ('s) of-construction
UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites the English county of Wiltshire
Stonehenge's sarsen stones phase the earliest phase of the monument
the monument's use The dating of cremated remains
a domain of the dead

As you can see, the Saxon Genitive has been formed by adding 's to the possessor, whereas the Norman Genitive is formed following the structure thing possessed + of + possessor. Moreover, you must remember that the Saxon Genitive is mainly used when the possessors are living things (people or animals). However, it can also be used when we refer to possessors that are countries (England's legends), institutions / organizations (UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites), places + superlatives (Cáceres' greatest buildings), time references (in two years' time), fixed expressions (a stone's throw), well-known places such as shops, churches or friends' homes (Stonehenge's sarsen stones phase or I met her at St Patrick's [cathedral]).

Now, it's time to practise. Write the Saxon Genitive of the following phrases. If you doubt how to add 's to the possessor, click here to remember it.

Sigmund Christoph von Waldburg-Zeil-Trauchburg’s Family tree
Imagen anónima en wikipedia. Public domain.
of-construction Saxon Genitive
The sister of Paco  
The car of Andrés  
The poorest districts of London  
The top tourist attractions of the British Isles  
The father of Sonia and Paco  
The books of Paco and the books of Sonia  

The Saxon Genitive of the previous phrases would be the following ones:

Paco's sister Remember that in front of proper nouns we don't normally use the definite article the.
Andrés' car or Andres's car Remember that proper nouns ending in -s may take just the ' or 's.
London's poorest districts Place (London) + superlative (poorest).
The British Isles' top tourist attractions Remember that regular plural nouns (Isles) just add ' to form the Saxon Genitive.
Paco and Sonia's father When there are several possessors and the things possessed belong to all of them, 's is added to the last one.
Paco's and Sonia's books When there are several possessors and some of the things possessed belong to a possessor and some othes to another possessor, 's is added to each possessor.

On the other hand, when possessors are non-living things, we normally use the of-construction or Norman Genitive. In the following phrases, say which ones you would say with the Saxon Genitive and which with the of-construction.

the manager /office Saxon Genitive (the manager's office)
the door / room Of-construction (the door of the room)
my friends / party Saxon Genitive (my friends' party)
the lamps / sitting room Of-construction (the lamps of the sitting room)
the team / equipment Saxon Genitive (the team's equipment)

Quite frequently the apostrophe (') is misused and English people get really angry whenever this happens. Have a look at the following sentences and study whether the apostrophe is correctly used or not.

Paco's mother's Spanish Correct Paco's mother is Spanish
Does Paco know where Stonehenge's is? Incorrect Does Paco know where Stonehenge is?
The boys' tickets are in their cupboard Correct
The boys' father is talking to him Incorrect The boy's father is talking to him
That's not mine. That's Simon's Correct Double genitive
London is England's largest city Correct
I really like the colour of the travel brochures of Paco Incorrect I really like the colour of Paco's travel brochures
Paco's sister thinks its not a good idea Incorrect Paco's sister thinks it's not a good idea

In the last sentence, the Saxon Genitive, Paco's sister, is used to express the relationship between Paco and his sister, it doesn't literally mean that Paco possesses her sister, Sonia. So, as you should have noticed, the Saxon Genitive is very frequently used to talk about family relationships. Draw a family tree of Paco's family after the following information:

Paco's family tree
Elaboración propia
  • Sonia is Paco's sister.
  • Francisco is Paco, Sonia and Alex's father.
  • Francisco's wife is Isabel.
  • Alex's girlfriend is called Susan.
  • Isabel's parents are Javier and Marta. They are Paco's grandparents.
  • Sonia's grandparents are also Josefa and José. They have another daughter apart from Francisco, her name is Lucía. Lucía is Alex, Sonia and Paco's aunt.
  • Lucía is married with Antonio. Antonio is Alex's uncle. They have two children, Jesús and Alfredo. They are Paco, Alex and Sonia's cousins.

If you need help, click here.