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What does it mean? It looks like something to turn nouns into adjectives, but so far I've only seen it in things that could have been possessive phrase. Is there a difference between -ин and using the ordinary genitive case?

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    It corresponds exactly to "'s" in phrases "mother's house" and "cat's house".
    – shabunc
    Sep 3, 2013 at 18:59

2 Answers 2

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Semantically I do not see any difference. The suffix -ин is used to express posessiveness. So:

кошкин дом = дом кошки
мамин дом = дом мамы

Grammatically you can't add more attributes to cat or mother because they've become an attribute themselves.

дом моей мамы = ?
дом серой кошки = ?

Also you can't form possessive adjectives that way freely. There are many exceptions and other ways to express possessiveness:

Петька - петькин
Катька - катькин (and other names formed like this apply for this rule)
Нина - нинин
лиса - лисий
заяц - заячий

So if you have nothing else to add about mother, go ahead and use мамин.

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This is analogous to the two ways of expressing possession in English:

mother's house vs. the house of the mother

мамин дом vs. дом мамы

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