What Is the Genitive Case? (with Examples)

What Is the Genitive Case? (with Examples)

The genitive case is predominantly used for showing possession. With nouns, it is usually created by adding 's to the word or by preceding it with of.

Most people will encounter the term genitive case when studying a language other than English. In English, you will often hear the term possessive case in place of genitive case, but be aware that the genitive case is not always about possession (more below).

Examples of the Genitive Case

Here are some examples of the genitive case:
  • Carl's haircut
  • The edge of the table
  • Dog's bone
  • The bone of the dog
There are several other ways of forming the genitive case using an apostrophe:

TypeExampleGenitive Case
singular noun dog dog's dinner
plural noun dogs dogs' dinner
singular noun ending s Chris Chris' hat or Chris's hat
plural nouns not ending s Men Men's room

Read more about using an apostrophe to show possession.

Possessive Case or Genitive Case?

The genitive case is also called the possessive case. The two terms are interchangeable, but possessive case is more common in English study. However, as this case does not always show possession, some grammarians like to make a distinction between the genitive case and the possessive case. For example:
  • Dan's bike
  • (No one would argue this is the genitive case and the possessive case. It is the bike of Dan. It is about possession.)
  • Children's songs
  • (This is not about possession. It's about songs for children. For this reason, some argue this is the genitive case and not the possessive case.)
  • Constable's paintings
  • (This is not about possession. It's about paintings by Constable. Some would argue this is the genitive case and not the possessive case.)
It is worth reiterating that the two terms are interchangeable. However, you might also encounter writers who make a more marked distinction between the two. For example:
  • Childrens Minister
  • (Sometimes, the title Childrens Minister is written without an apostrophe to make it clear it is a minister for children.)
  • Children's Minister
  • (We judge this to be the correct version. It's just the genitive case. It's not always about possession.)
This gives us a logic problem, however. Look at these examples (genitive case shaded):
  • The dog's dinner
  • The dinner of the dog
There are no issues with the two examples above. However, look at this pairing:
  • Picasso's painting
  • Painting by Picasso
  • (The phrase by Picasso is not the genitive case, even though it is an expansion of something which is. Oh well, never mind.)

Genitive Adjectives and Pronouns

Possessive adjectives and possessive personal pronouns are also forms of the genitive case. Examples:
  • our carpet
  • (our - a genitive form of we)
  • Can I use yours?
  • (yours - a genitive form of you)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited and printed to create exercise worksheets.

See Also

What is the dative case? What is the accusative case? What is the subjective case? What is the objective case? What is the vocative case? What are nouns? Using apostrophes to show possession What are possessive adjectives? What are possessive personal pronouns? Glossary of grammatical terms