Tag Archives: possessive apostrophes when more than one person owns something

Double Ownership

This post is about apostrophes. What do you do when more than one person shares ownership in something?

Donna’s pets are Shetland Sheepdogs. Donna is the sole owner, so you just add ‘s to her name.

But Donna has a husband, Frank. The dogs belong to both of them. Donna and Frank’s pets are Shetland Sheepdogs. What happened to Donna’s apostrophe? Here’s the deal: When two or more people share ownership, only the person closest to the item owned gets an apostrophe.

Which of the following two examples is wrong?

Ryan and Thad’s wives

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

If you think Ryan and Thad share wives, then neither example is incorrect. But chances are Ryan and Thad each has his own wife, so Ryan needs an apostrophe too.

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Joint Ownership

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This post isn’t about who owns that crummy bar downtown. It’s about using apostrophes when more than one person owns something (although, we could be talking about that crummy bar). Look at the following sentences:

1. John and Bill’s crummy bar downtown is doing well, despite its location.

Why does only Bill get an apostrophe showing ownership? When two or more people own the same thing, only the last person mentioned gets an apostrophe. That’s the rule.

2. John’s and Bill’s wives are very good friends.

Presumably, John and Bill each has his own wife; they don’t share connubial bliss. Therefore, each man gets his own apostrophe (along with his own wife).

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