I have a question about possessive words.
Consider the following examples:
- Sarah has a hat.
- This is Sarah’s hat.
- This is her hat. (“her” referring to Sarah)
- This is hers. (“hers” referring to the hat being Sarah’s hat)
My question is how to think about stuff like “Sarah’s” in example
2 and “her” in example 3. Here are my numbered comments on the above
- “Sarah” is clearly a noun in the first example.
- “Sarah’s” is the possessive form of “Sarah.” So by adding
the apostrophe + s to “Sarah”, have we changed the part of speech of
the word “Sarah”? Is “Sarah’s” a modifier now? Or is it kind
of like a verbal, where Sarah is derived from a noun and can still be
thought of as being a noun, but can take on roles other than strictly
noun roles? (A noun-al?) I think talking about the possessive form of a
noun as still basically being a noun is standard.
- “her” seems to be modifying “hat.” But if “Sarah’s” is
a “noun”, then “her” seems like a pronoun. In school, I learned
words like “her” in example 3 as being “possessive adjectives”,
and they are typically treated as adjectives in contexts like example 3.
But I found a page saying possessive adjectives are technically pronouns
cuz they replace a noun, and that made some sense to me.
It seems like if a word is replacing another word that we’re calling a
noun, then the word being used as the replacement is a pronoun. And if a
word is replacing another word that we’re calling an adjective, then
the word being used as a replacement is a pro-adjective or something.
And maybe nouns can do the adjective job sometimes, and maybe so can
pronouns, but saying that nouns can do adjective jobs sometimes seems
different than saying a particular word is actually just an adjective.
So I am wondering if there is a contradiction between viewing
“Sarah’s” as a noun in example 2 and “her” as an adjective in
example 3 based on the argument that “her” is a pronoun, not an
I think “hers” stands for something like “her hat.” So maybe
it’s really like a pro-noun-phrase. I’m okay with calling it a
pronoun though. It is in fact standing for a noun, I think. It just
might be standing for other stuff too.
BTW it’s possible that I’m paying too much attention to categories
and labels and that there is a better way to think about all this stuff.
That would not surprise me in the least. But if that’s the case then
there is a better way to understand this topic that I don’t quite
understand yet, so it still seems worth asking the question!