So if I wanted to say that it was the men drinking the water would I use -ש to create the subordinate clause?
Yes, כלביהם של הגברים ששותים מים = the dogs of the men who are drinking water
I think this sentence means the dogs of the men who are drinking water, as in the men are drinking water. I would say כלביהם של הגברים הם אלה ששותים מים
That's what he asked though ("...it was the men drinking the water...).
Your sentence means "the men's dogs are the ones drinking the water", which doesn't mean the men drink the water.
From this sentence I infer that you can use both possessive construction at the same time?
Not exactly, although I see why it looks like that. You can say כלביהם or הכלבים שלהם, these are the two forms, so far you are right. But if you want to specify whose dogs particularly, you need to add של הגברים. If you used הכלבים שלהם, it would become הכלבים של הגברים. If you used כלביהם, you could say, כלבי הגברים, that's formally correct but not in daily use. Or you could say כלביהם של הגברים.
Well, this is confusing. Such redundancy in languages (like repeating the possessive twice, as a suffix and as a של-phrase) is not a common thing.
I don't know about common, but I'm sure examples can be found in any language. I would argue that all languages seem strange when we are not used to them.
I've never heard of this in any other language. Hebrew seems to use the possessive pronoun suffix and then also include the actual possessed noun in the same sentence. For example, ספרו של האיש and הספר של האיש seem to mean the same thing and be used equally.
I'm not a linguist, nor do I know many languages, but I remember coming across the ne+pas combination in French and thinking: why do we need to negations? And when you say "I am", why do you need the "I"? "Am going" would be a perfectly unambiguous sentence if it were considered grammatical. In Hebrew where the verb is unambiguous we can drop the pronoun, for example, הלכתי. What's with the redundancy, English? :-)
Redundancy is actually a critical componant of all languages. children use it to learn without explicit instruction through a process called bootstrapping, where they infer the meaning or grammar of a new element based on the familiar elements in the rest of the utterance. It also makes it easier for adult speakers to comprehend what someone is saying, even if some of the words are undiscernible or if part of the utterance is cut off, as happens frequently when people speak to each other in real time. This is probably why inherently redundant things like agreement and double negation are common among the world's languages :)
Well, we do have "a friend of mine" where, logically speaking, you might expect "a friend of me". Even, colloquially "a friend of mine's" which appears to be a triple redundant possessive. This is still weird, though.
Please would you explain "כלבי הגברים" (your penultimate example). I thought that would mean "My dog the men".
Do you know if "כלביהם של הגברים" would be used in normal speech or communication. "הכלבים של הגברים" seems much more elegant to me but then my brain thinks in English not Hebrew!
It's actually kalvey (and most native speakers would use kalbey).
As for what is used in normal speech, הכלבים של הגברים is the most common in this case.
ll כלבי הגברים is not great, would rarely be used if at all.
ll כלביהם של הגברים could be used, it's very common in newspapers, books, speeches, etc. when you want to sound more formal.
Wouldn't it be the same to say, "כלבים של הגברים?"
The כלביהם feels like an unneeded complexity