Excerpt From: GRAMMAR FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE RULES by Kathleen A. Watson

Yours, Mine and Ours:
Individual vs. Joint Possession

When two people jointly own something, placing the apostrophe can be tricky.

The dilemma: one apostrophe or two?

  • I stopped by Brad and Kim’s house.
  • I stopped by Brad’s and Kim’s house.

What about this construction?

  • The shelves held Eric and Laura’s books.
  • The shelves held Eric’s and Laura’s books.

In the first example, Brad and Kim share ownership of the same house, so the first sentence using just one apostrophe is correct: Brad and Kim’s house.

In the second example, Eric’s collection of books is different from Laura’s collection, so the second sentence using two apostrophes is correct: Eric’s and Laura’s books.

Here are other correct examples:

  • Adam and Kari’s Irish Setters (two dogs, shared ownership)
  • Adam’s and Kari’s golf clubs (two sets of clubs, individual ownership)
  • Craig’s and Brooke’s motorcycles (two motorcycles, individual ownership)
  • Craig and Brooke’s yard (one yard, shared ownership)

Ownership with pronouns

When you are using my, his or hers, follow these examples:

  • The Realtor wanted to tour my and Brad’s house. (not me and Brad’s house)
  • She also wanted to tour his and Kim’s house. (not he and Kim’s house)
  • We decided to tour her and Brad’s house. (not she and Brad’s house)

Test the me/my, he/his, she/her dilemma by simply eliminating the second person.

  • They wanted to tour me and Brad’s
    They wanted to tour my house.
  • They wanted to tour his and Kim’s
    They wanted to tour his house.
  • They wanted to tour she and Brad’s
    They wanted to tour her house.

Other common errors to avoid:

  • Let’s stop by him his and Kim’s house this afternoon.
  • Please drop by mine my and Brad’s house this evening.

Killer Tip: We’re often more relaxed when speaking than when writing because we can read body language to be sure we’re being understood. Yet it’s always helpful to know what’s correct so we can decide how informal we want to be or what kind of an impression we want to make.

Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in both corporate and academic worlds. She has taught business people how to fine-tune their communication style, college students how to strengthen their writing, and Ph.D. candidates how to polish their dissertations. Kathy also has experience as a fiction and nonfiction book copy editor, working with a mix of new and experienced authors.

In addition to writing her own book on grammar, she blogs at RuthlessEditor.com, sharing weekly tips on how to write to get the job you want, earn the promotion you’ve worked hard for, and artfully explain your best ideas.

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