Possessive Pairs

No, I’m not talking about when your wife won’t let you go to a bar with your friends or your husband doesn’t let you talk to anyone at the office Christmas party; those problems would require the assistance of, oh I don’t know, perhaps a marriage counselor, not an editor.

What I’m talking about is how to indicate possession when discussing a single object that belongs to two people.

If two people own or have possession of one thing, put the apostrophe after only the second name. For example, when Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann hosted a single post-election show, we referred to it as Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann’s post-election show.

Other examples: Dick and George’s secret plan (one plan that they devised together), Barack and Michelle’s gift to the Queen (they gave her one gift together), and Sherry and Paul’s blog.

If you’re talking about two separate things that belong to two separate people, however, each name gets an apostrophe, as in Chris Matthews’ and Keith Olbermann’s shows (Matthews’ show is called Hardball, and Olbermann’s show is called Countdown), and Newsweek’s and Time’s front-page stories (each has its own front-page story).


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3 Responses to Possessive Pairs

  1. Caro says:

    A little question: I learnt at school that the plural of the possessive case should be s´, same with nouns or names ending in s, but I´ve also seen s´s. Is that correct?

    Thank you.

    • languageandgrammar says:

      I’m sorry to say that I’ve seen a variety of explanations. I know that’s of no help to you; if it’s any consolation, it’s not any help to the rest of us either.

      Some resources say to always put ‘s even if the noun ends in an s that is pronounced; others say to always only put only the apostrophe if the noun ends in a pronounced s. Still others say that GENERALLY the s is omitted when the word already ends in a pronounced s, so you just use the apostrophe at the end to show possession.

      In my view, a grammar textbook is the best guide.

  2. Angelica says:

    What happens with the possessive case when it’s used in proper names ending in -s

    Do they take the ‘s? or Do they take the ‘ (apostrophe) only?

    Thanks so much

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