Compound Possessives

This week on Wordsmith Essays’ blog, we’re talking about possession.  Writing with possessives is usually fairly simple in English; stick an ‘s at the end of your words to indicate ownership, unless the world already ends in s.  But what if you have compound possessives—where more than one person or thing has possession?  How do you write that?

I find the best way to explain it is with an example.

Let’s assume we have two people, Joe and Steve.  Joe and Steve are both cooks, and decide to open a restaurant together—one restaurant that they will both work at and own.  We would write that as:

Joe and Steve’s restaurant.

Joe and Steve share the restaurant—they both possess it together.  Therefore, we only need one ‘s—the possessive works on the entire phrase “Joe and Steve”, even though it’s only written after Steve.

Let’s now assume that Joe and Steve’s restaurant becomes a hit success, and people are flocking from all over to go eat there.  Because they’re so successful, Joe and Steve decide to expand, opening more restaurants to allow more people to eat there.  We would write that as:

Joe and Steve’s restaurants.

It doesn’t matter that there is now more than one restaurant that they’re sharing; both Joe and Steve still possess them all together, and we still need only the one ‘s.

Now, however, let’s assume that success goes to Joe and Steve’s heads, and they get in a fight, each thinking they’re the reason for their restaurant’s success.  They split up, and each take a restaurant for themselves, going into business for themselves.  We’d write that as:

Joe’s and Steve’s restaurants.

Because the restaurants are different—Joe and Steve own entirely different restaurants—we now need and ‘s after both “Joe” and “Steve” to indicate that each of them possess a different thing; we’re not grouping “Joe and Steve” as one phrase anymore, and the two ‘s marks help make that clear.

Of course, if you’re not sure you’ve got all your possessives in the right place, or you just want another pair of eyes to make sure everything’s written as well as it could be, why not stop by Wordsmith Essays’ order page today?  Our team of international editors will help make sure you’re getting the most out of your writing.


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