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Friend of yours

Posted by Anders on April 13, 2003

Friend of yours, friend of mine, friend of Eliot's - these are instances of the usual genitive form. But in the latest issue of the London Review of Books, Richard Poirier writes:

"Her father, of whom she was especially fond, was a painter and member of the Royal Academy, and her younger brother, Maurice, later to become a trusted friend of Eliot, was an officer in the British Army preparing to serve on the Western Front. The marriage ceremony was a hastily arranged and secretive affair, with only a few friends of hers in attendance."

Thus we have "friend of Eliot" and "friends of hers" in two consecutive sentences (separated by a paragraph). Why is it not "friend of Eliot's", the usual genitive form, which corresponds to "friends of hers"? Is it correct to write as RP does? If so, why? Is there perhaps a difference in meaning between "friend of Eliot" and "friend of Eliot's"? As a non-native speaker of English, I am uncertain, but can imagine that there may be a difference in emphasis regarding the perception of the friendship. That is, a difference regarding to whom the other is a friend. Thus, if "I am a friend of Eliot's," then Eliot regards me as a friend (of his); whereas if "I am a friend of Eliot," I regard Eliot as a friend (of mine), even though he may not like me, i.e. he does not regard me as one of his friends. (Admittedly, I've never heard about such a distinction.)