Compound Possessive (noun + pronoun)

This morning, I received the following question about compound possessives from William Tate:

What about when yourself and someone else are in possession. Do you say “me and Sarah’s house” or “Mine and Sarah’s house” or “Sarah’s and my house”?

In this case, I would choose “Sarah’s and my house.”

To review, the rule for indicating joint possession for compound nouns is to make only the second noun possessive by adding ‘s to the end. But when one of the possessors is a personal pronoun, it doesn’t make sense to follow that rule. Here’s how the online Guide to Grammar and Writing puts it:

When one of the possessors in a compound possessive is a personal pronoun, we have to put both possessors in the possessive form or we end up with something silly: “Bill and my car had to be towed last night.”

* Bill’s and my car had to be towed last night.
* Giorgio’s and her father was not around much during their childhood.

If this second sentence seems unsatisfactory, you might have to do some rewriting so you end up talking about their father, instead, or revert to using both names: “Giorgio and Isabel’s father wasn’t around much . . . . ” (and then “Giorgio” will lose the apostrophe +s).

Also keep in mind that “me” is the objective form, not the possessive form, of “I.”

Finally, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, “mine” is the absolute, or independent, form:

[Mine] can stand alone without a noun . . . The independent form does not require an explicit object: the thing possessed may be either an antecedent or something understood {this dictionary is mine} {this cabin of yours} {Where is hers?}.

Cheers,

Tara Treasurefield
Tara’s Writing Studio

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About 123clear

I translate foggy information into plain English.
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12 Responses to Compound Possessive (noun + pronoun)

  1. Denise says:

    “The winner’s name will be announced tomorrow.”

    The winners name will be announced tomorrow

    Are both of these correct? I was told because the word name is not a defined name, then winner/winner’s either one is correct…

    • MA in English :) says:

      The second sentence is correct in this way: The winners’ names will be announced tomorrow. Since they are different persons and they have different names. So the plural is necessary.

  2. 123clear says:

    Hi, Denise.

    No, it is not true that both “winner’s” and “winners” are correct.

    “Winner’s” is the possessive form of “winner,” and the first of the two sentences you wrote is correct: “The winner’s name will be announced tomorrow.”

    “winners” is simply the plural of “winner,” indicating that there is more than one winner and that “name” should be “names.” A correct usage would be the plural possessive: “The winners’ names will be announced tomorrow.”

    To get around the possessive, you could write “The name of the winner will be announced tomorrow,” or “The names of the winners will be announced tomorrow.”

    Cheers,
    Tara

  3. Andyman says:

    Here’s an interesting mix of concepts! Is this correct?

    “This will be Brandon, Anna’s, and my final year of school.”

    • 123clear says:

      Hi, Andy!

      Yes, the sample sentence is correct.

      Section 5.27 of the Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition, says, “If two or more nouns share possession, the last noun takes the possessive ending.” Since “my” is a possessive pronoun–not a noun–you have followed the rule by placing the apostrophe after Anna, the second and last noun.

      If there were three nouns, the third and last would take the possessive: “This will be Brandon, Anna, and Claudia’s final year of school.”

      I invite other ideas and opinions.

      Cheers,
      Tara

      Cheers,
      Tara

  4. Linda says:

    “Luke went to visit his uncle Herbert and aunt Matilda.”

    What role does the possessive pronoun “his” play in the capitalization of “aunt” Matilda? Do we assume that “his” refers to aunt Matilda? Should “aunt” be capitalized?

    • 123clear says:

      Hi, Linda. Thank you for the sentence and your questions.

      Since the author of the sentence left “aunt” lowercased, I am assuming that “his” modifies aunt as well as uncle, which means that both are used in apposition.

      Chicago Manual of Style16th edition, page 400, section 8.35 Kinship names.

      Kinship names are lowercased unless they immediately precede a personal name or are used alone, in place of a personal name. Used in apposition, however, such names are lowercased (see 8.20).

      I’ll provide more details in a fresh post over the next few days, so double thanks.

      Cheers,
      Tara

  5. Jacob says:

    How about when you are talking about two people’s possessions, and one is first person?
    For example, is the following correct?
    – I gave John’s and my time sheets to the supervisor.

  6. Elaine says:

    Is you and your family’s best interest grammatically sound? Or should it be your and your family’s best interest?

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