"Les rats du laboratoire sont tous en grève."

Translation:The laboratory rats are all on strike.

July 16, 2020

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English speakers please clarify, Is "the rats of the laboratory are all on strike", bad/ wrong English?


No, it's not bad English. It's allowed within the rules of English grammar.

"Laboratory rats" (usually shortened to "lab rats") is the conventional term, so Anglophones default to that. If I showed you a picture of some rats in a laboratory and asked you what it was, you would say "It's a photo of some lab rats."

You would more likely use "the rats of the laboratory" (or "the laboratory's rats", which is equivalent) if we had just been talking about a specific laboratory. This makes it clear that you mean the rats in this particular laboratory, and not just any lab rats.


Is there a rule for when to use "of"? "de" is the only way to go in French but in English, it seems to me that people tend to combine nouns if that sounds reasonable. I asked why "juice of apple" was wrong but instead I was questioned by another user who thought that I was a native English speaker : you would say that?


So, there are two ways to form the possessive in English. We can either use of, or 's. These are basically interchangeable, two ways of saying the same thing. Most of the time, however, we prefer to use 's with animate nouns and "of" with inanimate ones. To say "the table's leg", instead of "the leg of the table", sounds rather odd, as though we are personifying the table.

The "of" construction is also preferred in more formal contexts, so you are more likely to see "the subsidiaries of the company" than "the company's subsidiaries", although both sound quite natural. It also gets used in more complicated phrases where 's would sound unwieldy or ambiguous.

When we want to indicate some relationship other than possession, English tends to form compound words, in which one word (the "head" of the compound) is modified by the other as though it was an adjective. For example, "peace" and "treaty" are both nouns, but in "peace treaty", the head word is "treaty", and "peace" modifies it. "Apple juice" would be an example of a common compound noun. We don't consider the juice as belonging to the apple. Rather, it's juice, of the type that is derived from apples.

As to why we don't say "juice of apple", that's mainly because "apple juice" is simply a very common expression, so "juice of apple" sounds like an unnecessarily roundabout and formal way to describe something very ordinary.

In some contexts this might be the effect you want. For instance, in fantasy stories, objects are often given names like "elixir of life" or "sword of smiting", which gives them a semi-mythical, almost biblical flavour - but it sounds very odd to describe apple juice this way, unless perhaps you were making a joke.

However, we might say "the juice of the apple" if we want to specify that it comes from a particular apple that we were already talking about. In that case, the use of "of" clarifies that we mean the juice belonging to that apple, not apple juice in general. That is to say, it's the possessive. (We could also say "the apple's juice" to indicate the same thing, but this will sound odd to some English speakers, as an apple is an inanimate object.)


I can't thank you enough for this! Especially the "elixir of life" example, which explains why there is "leg of goat" in the video game Skyrim ( and that does sound funny to me). I feel like that I'm one step closer to speaking like a native!


There was a U.S. cartoon, Pinky and the Brain, about two scheming lab rats. This sounds like a plot they'd have hatched!


Could 'All the laboratory rats are on strike' be an alternative sentence? (however refused).


Duo, you have to pronounce the "s" of "tous" here ...

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