- On March 14, 2017
After news broke that Hunter Biden was dating Hallie Biden, the widow of his late brother Beau, Joe Biden, the former vice president and father to both men, wrote in a statement, They have mine and Jill’s full and complete support.
Intrigue aside—and there’s a lot of it here—the line should have read, They have Jill’s and my full and complete support, not mine and Jill’s. The senior Biden also could have said our complete support, but it’s understandable why he wanted to mention his wife by name.
When you’re writing about two or more people owning the same thing, or sharing the same experience, the correct formatting can be tricky—same for when you’re referring to more than one person in a single sentence, each of whom owns his or her own thing.
Here are the guidelines for those prickly possessive situations. For a full set of possessive advice, consult AP Style.
• When you’re talking about two or more people possessing the same thing, you add ’s to the name that appears last, for example, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange’s new movie is about the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Two owners, one movie. Lange’s name appears second and gets the ’s.
• When you’re mixing a pronoun—my, his, her, our, or their—with a name (as Biden did, though he mistakenly used mine instead of my), the pronoun always goes last and the person being referred to by name takes the ’s, which is why you say, They have Jill’s and my full support. If another person were to add his support to the Hunter-Hallie union, he’d get his own ’s too, for example, They have Jill’s, Bill’s, and my full support.
• When you’re talking about two people each owning separate things, make both names possessive, for example, Many of Sarandon’s and Lange’s movies will be part of the festival. Each has her own movies playing, so each gets ’s.
A related issue is whether to add ’s to nouns that already end in s. The answer is, it depends. Here’s what AP Style says:
• For plural nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe, e.g., We need both your parents’ permission.
• For singular common nouns add ’s unless the next word begins with the letter s, e.g., the hostess’s invitation but the witness’ story.
• For singular proper names ending in s, add only an apostrophe, e.g., Tennessee Williams’ plays.