the puppy of the dog

This is the place to post questions and discussions on usage and style. The members of the Wordwizard Clubhouse will also often be able to help you to formulate that difficult letter.
Post Reply

the puppy of the dog

Post by navi » Mon Jan 10, 2022 1:25 am

1) He was holding that puppy of my dog which I had given to him.
2) He was holding the puppy of my dog which I had given to him.
3) He was holding my dog's puppy which I had given to him.

Are all grammatical and do they mean the same?

4) He was holding the puppy of the rescue dog which I had given to him.
5) He was holding the puppy of a rescue dog which I had given to him.

Had I given him the/a rescue dog or the puppy?

Gratefully,
Navi
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: the puppy of the dog

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Jan 10, 2022 9:40 pm

1) He was holding that puppy of my dog which I had given to him. Not clear, and not good wording
2) He was holding the puppy of my dog which I had given to him. Not clear, and not good wording
3) He was holding my dog's puppy which I had given to him. The puppy
4) He was holding the puppy of the rescue dog which I had given to him. The puppy
5)He was holding the puppy of a rescue dog which I had given to him.The puppy

Personally, I would not use "which", I prefer "that". It may be arguable of course.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: the puppy of the dog

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Jan 10, 2022 11:11 pm

I'm with Bob on the awkwardness of the wording of 1) and 2), and personally I would add 3) to the list.

To avoid the question mark over what is being referred to in "He was holding that puppy of my dog which I had given to him", it would be preferable to recast the sentence along the following lines:

"He was holding the puppy I'd given him that {my dog had given birth to / had come from my dog's litter}.

If, for reasons best known to you, you were determined to retain the original structure, "the puppy from my dog" would be better than "the puppy of my dog" .

With 4) and 5), the referent is open to interpretation unless adequate context is available.

In the case of 5) there is an additional potential for ambiguity because the use of the indefinite article to describe the rescue dog makes it unclear whether I have given him just one such dog or more than one.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: the puppy of the dog

Post by Phil White » Tue Jan 11, 2022 11:19 am

It seems to me that, in all cases, the ambiguity can be resolved by using two or three more natural formulations.

Firstly, it would probably be more usual to use the Saxon genitive "my dog's puppy".
Secondly, at least in speech, it would be more natural to use the contracted relative clause: "the dog/puppy I had given him". The contracted relative cannot be separated from the referent to the same extent as a full relative clause, so the referent is clear(er).
Thirdly, I find "my" to be misleading if it is referring to the dog I had given him. It is no longer my dog..

This gives the following alternatives:
  • He was holding my dog's puppy I had given him.
    (similar to your sentence 3 and refers to the puppy)
  • He was holding the puppy of the dog I had given him.
    (refers to the dog - we don't use the Saxon genitive precisely in order to move "dog" to a position immediately before the relative clause)
Missing out the relative pronoun is extremely common in speech and has the additional effect of tying the relative clause tightly to the noun (not noun phrase) immediately preceding the clause.

As I have said before, sentences such as this with complex referential structures are difficult in languages that do not have a case system.

"I'm the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole that holds the ring that drives the rod that turns the knob that works the thingummybob.
I'm the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil that oils the ring that takes the shank that moves the crank that works the thingummybob"

Ed. The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that the disambiguation of referents is one of the primary uses of the "of" possessive, at least in speech:
"The river's estuary (that lies) to the West..."
"The estuary of the river (that lies) to the West..."

It's not the only use of the "of" possessive, of course, but it is an important one. The Saxon genitive and the "of" possessive are often taught as interchangeable, but they rarely are. There are circumstances when we use one and circumstances where we use the other. Sometimes, we can use either.
Last edited by Phil White on Tue Jan 11, 2022 12:36 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: Added comment on genitives.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: the puppy of the dog

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Jan 20, 2022 6:38 am

*singing in Aussie/French accent* The puppy of the dog
Is the puppy that I'm holding
(puppy that I'm holding)

The puppy that I'm holding
Is the puppy of my dog
(puppy of my dog)

Guess who's baaaack ?? Yep the Wizard from Downunder. And as you can see I have already made a valuable contribution to Navi's homework.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: the puppy of the dog

Post by Phil White » Thu Jan 20, 2022 10:42 am

Good to see you, WoZ, if only for a few days before the site closes its doors!

We have missed you!
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: the puppy of the dog

Post by tony h » Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:43 pm

WoZ, Good to see you commenting.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply