'Joint' (or 'compound') Possessives

Which Word Takes The Apostrophe?

A Compound Possessive is also called a Joint Possessive.

This grammar point often causes confusion, so we’ll try to make it as simple as possible. It all boils down to how and where to use the apostrophe ('s). With that in mind, we offer three tips:


If two or more nouns SHARE THE SAME POSSESSED THING, then only the last noun takes the 's.

For example:

My daughter and son's bike

(both my daughter and son share the same bike)

Rowan and Martin's TV show was canceled

(Rowan and Martin like the same TV show)

Who's dog is that? It's Dick and Jane's

(the dog belongs to both Dick and Jane)

John and Laura's house was damaged during the storm.

(both John and Laura own the same house)

As you can see in the examples above, only the second noun takes the possessive, formed by 's, because both nouns share ownership of the object.


However, when the objects are distinct, that is to say, they are NOT SHARED, then both nouns take the possessive as formed by 's.

For example:

Michelangelo's and Da Vinci's works of art

(the works of art by Da Vinci are not the same as those by Michelangelo)

My daughter's and my son's bikes were bought on the same day

(my daughter's bike is not the same as that of my son's, although both were bought on the same day)


Rowan’s and Martin’s TV shows were canceled.

(Rowan had a TV show. Martin had a TV show. Both shows were canceled.)


When you mix nouns and possessive pronouns (e.g., my, your, our, his, her, and their) in the same sentence, only the noun takes the 's, followed by the possessive pronoun.

You’re all invited to help celebrate Brian’s and my tenth wedding anniversary.

A:Congratulations! I understand Tom's and your company is doing very well.

B: We recently brought in Steve as a new partner so now it's Tom's, Steve's and my company.

That's all there is to it. We hope this explanation has cleared up any doubts you may have had about compound possessives.

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