A Friend of John’s vs. John’s Friend – Which Is Correct?

The terms “a friend of John’s” and “John’s friend” are pretty similar but do you know when to use each?

This page explains the difference between “a friend of John’s” and “John’s friend” and shows how and when you should use each term.

A Friend of John’s vs. John’s Friend – Which Is Correct?

You can often use “a friend of John’s” and “John’s friend” interchangeably with little change in meaning. However, “a friend of John’s” is more common when the listener is unaware of your existence. While “John’s friend” is more common when the listener knows you or your existence.

A Friend of John's vs. John's Friend

In any sentence where you write “a friend of John’s,” you can also use “John’s friend.”

  • Mary has been a friend of John’s for years.
  • Mary has been John’s friend for years.

In these examples, there is no change in meaning. However, there can be some subtle differences between the two forms.

  • I am John’s friend.

Indicates that the listener knows who “John” is and is aware in some sense of the speaker’s existence.

  • I am a friend of John’s.

You would likely use it when the listener doesn’t know you but perhaps knows “John.”

This difference is subtle; some people wouldn’t necessarily notice or pay attention to it, but others might.

Keep reading to see more examples and learn more about when to use “a friend of John’s” and “John’s friend.”

John’s Friend

The terms “John’s friend” and “a friend of John’s” are interchangeable; most of the time, there is no difference in meaning.

  • He is John’s friend.
  • He is a friend of John’s.

However, there are some occasions when you would more likely use “John’s friend” than “a friend of John’s.”

For example, when you are speaking to a person who knows “John” and is aware of your existence as the speaker.

  • I am John’s friend. I live with him at university.
  • I am John’s friend. The one he told you was coming.
  • She is John’s friend. The girl he said he was inviting.

A Friend of John’s

“A friend of John’s” is often interchangeable with “Johns friend” with no change in meaning.

For example:

  • He is John’s friend.
  • He is a friend of John’s

The above sentences are the same. However, there are some contexts in which it is more natural to use “a friend of John’s.”

For example, when the speaker is entirely unknown to the listener, you would more likely say:

  • I am a friend of John’s; it’s nice to meet you.
  • I am a friend of John’s. I don’t think anyone introduced us.

A Friend of John

There is no difference in meaning between “a friend of John” and “a friend of John’s.”

Furthermore, you use “a friend of John” in the same context, often when the listener is unaware of your existence as the speaker.

  • I am a friend of John. He told me to come and introduce myself.
  • She is a friend of John. I don’t think I have met her before.
  • He is a friend of John. Unfortunately, he doesn’t look like he is enjoying himself.

Conclusion

The term “John’s friend” and “a friend of John’s” mean the same and are often used interchangeably.

However, in some contexts, they differ. For example, when the listener knows “John” and the speaker, or they at least know that they exist, “John’s friend” is more common.

Likewise, when the listener is unaware of whom the speaker is but knows “John,” using “a friend of John’s” is more common.