Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt    

Lesson 18: The Possessive Case; and Who's to Have the Prize?

The court was again assembled, and the Judge was just going to speak, when he stopped— for there was Mr. Noun, who had gone plop down on one knee before him, just as Dr. Verb did before, and was holding out his petition.
The Possessive Case

"Dear me," exclaimed the Judge, "you too! What can you have to complain of?"

"I have lost a Case, my lord," said Mr. Noun, still kneeling.

"Get up, sir," said the Judge, "and say out quickly what you mean. Am I never to have done with these tiresome Cases?"

"Please, my lord, it is just this," said Mr. Noun, standing up. "You have seen how my words can be Nominative Case or Objective Case; but there is a case in which they are neither of these two. For instance, in the sentence, 'The monkey pulled the cat's tail,' —pulled is the verb; monkey is the nominative, for the monkey did the pulling; tail is the objective, for 'what did the monkey pull?' The tail—but then what case is cats? It is not nominative nor objective."

"Don't ask me what case it is," said the Judge, indignantly; "say out at once yourself."

"But you will be angry at the long word, my lord," said Mr. Noun.

"Nonsense, sir," said the Judge, getting very red. "Speak at once, when I order you to do so."

"Then cats is said to be in the Possessive Case," said Mr. Noun, "because it shows who possessed the tail that was pulled by the monkey. Any noun that shows to whom a thing belongs—who is the possessor of it—is said to be in the Possessive Case."

"Oh!" said the Judge. "Then if I say, 'This knife belongs to Harry,' Harry will be in the Possessive Case, will it?"

"No, my lord," said Mr. Noun, looking a little confused, "because there is a little preposition to before Harry, and prepositions..."

"Prepositions govern the Objective Case," said Dr. Syntax, solemnly.

"Yes, yes, we know," said Mr. Noun, impatiently; "but I mean any noun that shows possession, without the help of any preposition, as if you said, 'This is Harry's knife.' Harry's is in the Possessive Case, for it shows who possesses the knife, not by the help of any preposition, but by making it Harry's instead of Harry. I might have said in the other sentence, 'The monkey pulled the tail belonging to the cat,' but it is much better and shorter to use a Possessive Case, and say, 'The monkey pulled the cat's tail.'"

"It certainly seems a convenient case," said the Judge.

"It is, my lord," said Mr. Noun; "and, therefore, I think I have a right to ask for an extra mark for it."

"Oh! that is what you want, is it?" said the Judge. "Well, I will grant your request, provided you can show me an easy way of finding the Possessive Case at once."

"You may always know it by the little apostrophe (') either before or after an s at the end of the word," answered Mr. Noun; "as, 'Mary's doll,' 'Tom's dog,' 'the baby's milk,' 'the children's toys,' 'the boys' hats,' 'the girls' gardens.' Is not that easy, my lord?"

"Yes, that is simple enough," replied the Judge; "therefore, although I think it rather impertinent of you to have brought so many Cases before me, I will grant your request. You are to have then an extra mark for every Nominative Case and for every Possessive Case, but none for the Objective Case; and you will lose a mark every time you are governed by a preposition. Are you satisfied?"

Mr. Noun bowed, and took his seat.

"And now, gentlemen," continued the Judge, addressing the nine Parts-of-Speech, "as you have all appeared before me, and shown clearly who and what you are..."

"And me! oh! oh! poor little me!" cried Interjection.

"I have not called you up before me," said the Judge, sternly, "because we have all heard quite enough about you already. Once is quite enough to have heard such an unruly, odd little creature as you are; and you have thrown yourself in more than once while the people were speaking. We all know that you neither govern nor are governed by anyone else, and that you agree with nobody. Therefore, stand aside and be quiet."

"Ah, well!" chuckled Interjection, as he obeyed, "if I do not govern anyone, at least I can take my neighbors words, as other people can, and make them my own. Marry! forsooth! indeed! that I can!"

"Marry is mine," said Dr. Verb, bustling up.

"Indeed, indeed is mine," said Adverb, blandly.

"Pray, do not quarrel with him," said the Judge; "let - him have a few words to keep him quiet."

"There is one thing," said Dr. Verb, laughing, "no one would be in a hurry to steal Interjection's words, for they are not worth it. Who could ever make a decent word out of oh! or fie! or pshaw! or ugh!"

"Laugh as you like, Dr. Verb," cried Interjection, "my words can stand alone, and make sense all by themselves, and mean as much as a whole string of other words. For instance, when I say 'Fie!' that is as good as saying, 'You ought to be ashamed of yourself;' and when I say 'Ah!' that means, 'I see through all your fine airs and graces, Dr. Verb, and know all about you.' Ha! ha! what do you say to that?" And Interjection once more took a turn over head and heels.

"Keep him quiet, will you," said the Judge. "And now, gentlemen," he continued, for the third time, "I hope we shall all be prepared for the great trial that is to take place this day week. The people of Schoolroom-shire are all invited to attend, and to bring their slates and pencils with them. You all, my nine Parts-of-Speech, will together make up a story which Serjeant Parsing will have in his hand. He will then carefully examine every word, and the children of Schoolroom-shire, who will have a place for each of you on their slates, will put down a mark to each one who deserves it. In the end, they will count up all the marks, and the Part-of-Speech who has the most will get—will get..."

Just at this moment, when everyone was listening most anxiously to hear what the prize was to be, clouds of dust were observed arising from behind his lordship's throne. In fact, the critics, tired of doing nothing, had begun to turn out whole piles of moldering old books, Murray's Grammars, old dictionaries, and I know not what; and the venerable dust therefrom, getting into his lordship's eyes, nose, and mouth, brought on such a violent fit of coughing and choking, that it was impossible to get another word from him. He did not then, nor has he since, informed his loving subjects what the prize was to be. Therefore, it is left to the children of Schoolroom-shire to decide. In examining the following story they must be both judge and jury, and decide not only which Part-of-Speech deserves the most marks, but also what is a fitting reward for the happy being who shall win the great prize of Grammar-land.

You may find Serjeant Parsing's story for examination in the Lesson Guide.

    Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt    

Lesson 18: The Possessive Case; and Who's to Have the Prize?


Over the two weeks:

  • Read or review the lesson each week.
  • Complete the assigned enrichment activities for each week.


The court learns of the possessive case. Possessive case is used to express direct possession, ownership, origin, etc. For example, 'Tommy's car,' 'Susan's daughter,' and 'The girl's book.'


Activity - Week 1: PARSE THE STORY

Examine the beginning of Serjeant Parsing's Story and add up the Parts-of-Speech. Who wins Part I?


  • Once, when I was walking in the garden, I found a young squirrel on the ground at the foot of a tall tree.
  • It had fallen from the nest.
  • I took the little soft warm creature in my hand, and I carried it carefully into the house.
  • There we fed it with warm milk, and it quickly revived.
  • It soon sat up, with its pretty curly tail over its back, and then it rubbed its nose with its paws.
  • It had fallen from the nest.


Examine the conclusion of Serjeant Parsing's Story and add up the Parts-of-Speech. Who wins the conclusion, and who wins overall?


  • It seemed to look to me as if it knew me for a friend.
  • When night came, I made a soft bed for it beside me, and it slept cozily.
  • In the morning, I took it to my cousin. 'It wants breakfast,' she said; 'I will warm some milk for it in my doll's saucepan.'
  • So she boiled some milk in a little green saucepan, and we fed our pet.
  • 'Ah!' I cried, 'is it ill? It is struggling as if it were in pain.'
  • We tried to warm it, and we gave it another spoonful of milk; but, alas! the poor little creature gave a pitiful moan, and we soon saw that it was dead.
  • The green paint on the doll's saucepan was poisonous, and we had killed our little squirrel while it was lying in our arms.