Author Topic: grammar question - seven years bad luck  (Read 921 times)  

Offline Puddleduck

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grammar question - seven years bad luck
« on: May 26, 2018, 07:38:46 PM »
So, the phrase "seven years bad luck" ... is that supposed to be possessive? I'd been thinking of it as not, but then I thought, is it technically supposed to be like "seven years' worth of bad luck"? Should there be an apostrophe after "years" to indicate a possessive? Or not? Or does it matter? (Considering this phrase structure as a title, and I don't want to have a grammar error in my title.)

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2018, 07:47:36 PM »
Attributable to cracking a mirror, which goes to say you have seven years of bad luck to follow? So, seven years' worth of bad luck IMHO.
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Offline Joseph M. Erhardt

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2018, 07:48:17 PM »
Breaking a mirror is seven years' bad luck.
Breaking a mirror means seven years of bad luck.

Choose your poison. :)

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2018, 07:52:26 PM »
As far as I know, "seven years' bad luck" does take the apostrophe, but it's not possessive it's elision. It's a contraction of "seven years of bad luck," and the apostrophe replaces the "of."

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Offline Puddleduck

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2018, 07:54:00 PM »
So if you were going to use that as a title, would you include the apostrophe? I wonder if, even if it's grammatically correct, if people would think it looks weird and (incorrectly) assume the apostrophe is an error. Vs. how many people would see it without the apostrophe and be bothered by the lack?

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2018, 07:54:44 PM »
Seven years' bad luck.
Two weeks' time.
Seven minutes' drive.

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2018, 07:56:52 PM »
I personally would use the apostrophe. I can't speak for anyone else.

:)

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2018, 09:12:55 PM »
Put in the 'of' if it looks and sounds better.
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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2018, 09:19:40 PM »
Seven years of bad luck. It looks weird without the "of" to me, like something's missing.

Offline JRTomlin

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2018, 09:26:29 PM »
If you care to take the University of New England's word for it then it is "seven years' bad luck".

https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/13111/WC_Punctuating-with-apostrophes.pdf

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Offline Decon

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2018, 05:21:07 AM »
Seven years' bad luck.
Two weeks' time.
Seven minutes' drive.

This book has had both versions of the title. The former seems to have stuck as the title of late.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.





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Offline DarkScribe

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2018, 10:33:33 AM »
So, the phrase "seven years bad luck" ... is that supposed to be possessive? I'd been thinking of it as not, but then I thought, is it technically supposed to be like "seven years' worth of bad luck"? Should there be an apostrophe after "years" to indicate a possessive? Or not? Or does it matter? (Considering this phrase structure as a title, and I don't want to have a grammar error in my title.)

Who is expected to experience the bad luck? The "years" or the person who broke the mirror?

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2018, 06:52:30 PM »
This book has had both versions of the title. The former seems to have stuck as the title of late.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

If one wanted to be very, very picky, one might point out that a nest doesn't belong to just a single hornet, but to a whole, well, nest of them.  Therefore in order to be absolutely correct, the title really should be The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.

And no, I didn't see that version on Amazon, just the singular possessive one.
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Offline Puddleduck

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2018, 07:48:08 PM »
Seven years of bad luck. It looks weird without the "of" to me, like something's missing.

Maybe this is a regional thing, because with that particular phrase, I can't recall ever hearing it said with an 'of', for whatever reason.

Offline The Bass Bagwhan

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2018, 02:49:06 AM »
Who is expected to experience the bad luck? The "years" or the person who broke the mirror?

This is the real point. Years, even weeks and minutes, cannot "possess" anything (although hornets can). If you are willing to accept that a year can possess anything, it would be years'. But I'd argue it's plural, never possessive.
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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2018, 08:26:02 AM »
Mr. Erhardt is correct but in this instance, I recommend you forget grammar.

Do not include the apostrophe because most readers won't understand why it is there... and those who will understand won't lay down your book because you left it out
*HINT* one buyer group is substantially larger than the other.  ;)
« Last Edit: May 28, 2018, 08:28:21 AM by oakwood »

Offline Puddleduck

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2018, 10:13:11 AM »
Do not include the apostrophe because most readers won't understand why it is there... and those who will understand won't lay down your book because you left it out
*HINT* one buyer group is substantially larger than the other.  ;)

That's kind of what I'm leaning toward. Even as much as I'm usually for using correct grammar even if people who don't know better think it's wrong (and in this case, it still seems like there's some disagreement on what is correct), when it comes to something as visible as a title, I think it may be better to go for what would look odd to fewer people.

Offline MartaT

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2018, 09:35:21 AM »
So, the phrase "seven years bad luck" ... is that supposed to be possessive? I'd been thinking of it as not, but then I thought, is it technically supposed to be like "seven years' worth of bad luck"? Should there be an apostrophe after "years" to indicate a possessive? Or not? Or does it matter? (Considering this phrase structure as a title, and I don't want to have a grammar error in my title.)

Yes, it's supposed to be seven years' or seven years of (both ways of indicating possession). Though the argument can be made that years can't own anything, grammatically, they can.

See https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/possessives for a more extensive description that includes some interesting history of English.

Offline Decon

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2018, 05:12:32 PM »
Yes, it's supposed to be seven years' or seven years of (both ways of indicating possession). Though the argument can be made that years can't own anything, grammatically, they can.

See https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/possessives for a more extensive description that includes some interesting history of English.



Same with "A Hard Day's Night" of which Night is not strictly possessive of day but the song is about one particular day, so it indicates singular.


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Offline WHDean

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #19 on: May 29, 2018, 05:24:07 PM »
A lot of people (quite naturally) confuse the concept of possession with grammatical form nowadays named the possessive. In grammars, the possessive belongs to the genitive case, a class of nouns containing the possessive. In the genitive, seven years' bad luck is a temporal genitive or genitive of time or duration, not a possessive in the strict sense. If you look up the grammatical case, this and much more will make a lot more sense.

 

Offline Decon

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #20 on: May 29, 2018, 05:33:01 PM »
If one wanted to be very, very picky, one might point out that a nest doesn't belong to just a single hornet, but to a whole, well, nest of them.  Therefore in order to be absolutely correct, the title really should be The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.

And no, I didn't see that version on Amazon, just the singular possessive one.

Some Film posters have it as Hornets' Nest. I think the difference was between the UK and US editors. This is a cover from the UK. Hornet's nest seems to be the US version used for the title.



« Last Edit: May 29, 2018, 05:35:35 PM by Decon »


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Offline Joseph M. Erhardt

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Re: grammar question - seven years bad luck
« Reply #21 on: May 30, 2018, 05:05:30 AM »
Shall we now begin discussing Finnegans Wake:)

Seriously.  Could not believe that that didn't have an apostrophe in it.  I mean, what is the grammatical construction of this title?

There's also this:
https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/joyce

And, re: Hornet's, Hornets', from a Google search on "solitary hornet nest":
"The vast majority of wasp species are solitary insects. ... Some solitary wasps nest in small groups alongside others of their species, but each is involved in caring for its own offspring (except for such actions as stealing other wasps' prey or laying in other wasp's nests)."

Which brings this rambling post to this Far Side classic:
http://i.imgur.com/M8hcM.png



« Last Edit: May 30, 2018, 05:28:48 AM by Joseph M. Erhardt »

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