Grammar

‘And I’s?’ The Challenge of Compound Possessives

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Compound Possessives often create confusion as people try to successfully construct a grammatically correct sentence. Here’s how to do it.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to find an example of a grammatical error. But in the case of compound possessives, it wasn’t that hard.

First things first: What do I mean by “compound possessives?” Simple. It’s when you have either two people who own one thing or two people who each own one of the same thing. Let’s say Dick and Jane own a house together and that they each own their own car.

If calamity befell them, you might say:

  • “Dick and Jane’s house was struck by lightning” or
  • “Dick’s and Jane’s cars were vandalized.”

You’ll note that in the first sentence, there’s one ‘S while in the second, there are two.

That’s the first thing to keep in mind: If multiple people co-own the same thing, you only need to put the ‘S after the second name. But if each owns their own version of the same type of item and both items are affected, then each name (or pronoun) gets the ‘S.

When you’re one of the two, it gets complicated.

That’s when the “and I’s” error comes into play. Consider these examples:

From The Hutchinson News:

“This being Connor and I’s last time to ever be eligible to fish a TBF state championship, we wanted to bring home the win bad.”

From The Lufkin Daily News:

“Last year it had been 10 years since my husband and I’s high school prom together, so I put together an adult prom that benefited the Alzheimer’s Association.”

From WEAR-TV:

“I know in my gut something is not right and I’m willing to burn bridges with my dad and I’s relationship to get justice for my mother.”

I don’t mean to pick on anyone.

The reason it took less than a few seconds to find plenty of examples to illustrate the point is simple. Grammar can be ridiculously confusing.

Even if it doesn’t sound exactly correct, sometimes figuring out how to rewrite a sentence can be just as confusing. And in these cases, in which it’s the spoken word, it can be even more difficult to stop and rearrange what you meant to say on the fly.

So what are you supposed to do?

Let’s say you have a friend named Jack. And let’s say you go into business together, and you’re telling someone you’ve had success:

WRONG: Jack and I’s business is making a profit.

CORRECT: Jack’s and my business is making a profit.

Why? If you drop the other party, you’d never in a million years say, “I’s business is making a profit.” You’d ay my business is making the profit. You add the other person’s name before your pronoun — because chivalry isn’t dead — and add the ‘S after their name. Technically, both are possessive. But they’re also grammatically correct.

But what if you and Jack each own successful businesses? If you mix a proper noun and a pronoun, both show possession. The proper name gets the ‘S treatment. And the pronoun form is possessive itself.

WRONG: Jack and I’s businesses are making a profit.

CORRECT: Jack’s and my businesses are making a profit.

Since the noun being owned, businesses, is plural, it implies there are two. Since there are two “owners” listed, you can assume each owns a business.

So remember: to choose the right pronoun, drop the proper name for a minute: that makes choosing the pronoun easier.

And please remember this: I’s is never correct.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.