So, recently on the Q&A segment of our weekly newsletter, we were discussing possessives with proper nouns (names), and one example was compound possessives. When two (or more) people ‘own’ the same thing, and they are named, we only need to indicate possession on the final one:
“I was invited to George and Amal’s wedding.” (NOT: “George’s and Amal’s wedding)
Yet if Amal were telling the story, she’d likely use a possessive pronoun (also called a ‘possessive adjective’) such as “my” to describe her ownership of it. In this case, “my” is clearly owning something, but George also gets possession because, well… it just sounds better:
“George’s and my wedding was a resounding success.” (NOT: “George and my wedding”)
And what about the guests at this event of the year? After witnessing the his-and-hers bathrooms at the fancy resort, they were in the mood for a little possessive pronoun action too. So the correct form is again the double whammy:
“George’s and her wedding was spectacular, especially the bathrooms.” (NOT “George and her wedding”)
Remember, if you think these last two are a bit clunky (and they can be, even when they’re correct), there are handy “catch-all” possessive pronouns standing by to take your call:
“Our wedding was a resounding success.”
“Their wedding was spectacular.”
And what if three of us all chipped in and bought George and Amal a wedding gift? If we name everyone, it’s identical to the first example above, but if I’m telling the story, the last name before the possessive pronoun gets the apostrophe+s:
“Valerie, Peter’s and my gift of a coffee pod machine seemed to amuse George.”
(Only Peter and I get possession; Valerie’s is implied…although she tried to deny having anything to do with it in front of George…)
Of course, if two people own distinctly different things, then having both names present and possessive is correct.
For example, if we were talking about George Clooney and Brad Pitt, who each had separate weddings recently, they each get to be possessive:
“I was invited to George’s and Brad’s weddings.”
(Yes, technically George and Brad could have each had more than one wedding, but this abstract area is where we rely on their common sense and not English language’s!)
And after that first mention, names aren’t necessary – there are plenty of other plurals and clues you can use to make it very clear exactly who had the weddings … and who was actually there. Ahem.
“Their weddings were both amazing. And then I woke up.”
Want to see the Q&A this came from?
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