To Whom Does It Belong? Group vs Single Possession
- On January 7, 2020
I was recently included in a group email that elicited a lot of responses from the people on the distribution list. One person finally wrote, “I agree with Tim and Stewart’s comments, so I am not going to add anything more to the discussion.”
The problem is that Tim and Stewart had each sent his own set of comments, which means that each man should have gotten an apostrophe at the end of his name, i.e., “I agree with Tim’s and Stewart’s comments.” Had Tim and Stewart offered joint thoughts in a single email, “Tim and Stewart’s comments” would have been correct.
The rule is that if two people possess something together, e.g., a house or a car, you should consider them a single unit and put a single ‘s at the end of the second person’s name. On the other hand, if they possess something individually, they each get an ’s.
For more on the topic, including what to do if you’re using a pronoun like your, my, or our, read, How to Write Possessives—When You’re Sharing and When It’s “To Each His Own.”