Posted by: Jack Henry | December 9, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Shared Possession

Good morning!

I don’t want to rattle you too much first thing in the morning, but I heard this the other day: “My spouse and I’s favorite TV show is Yellowstone. (OK, maybe the TV show wasn’t Yellowstone; It could have been The Bachelor. I don’t know. I was so surprised by the grammar that my brain froze.)

But I understand the issue. It can be difficult to know how to show possession when more than one person is doing the possessing (we call that joint possession—and no, it’s not the kind of joint possession that Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson are famous for).

In the case I mentioned, the speaker and the speaker’s spouse both claim Yellowstone as their favorite TV show. The rule is: “If two people possess the same item, put the apostrophe + s after the second name only.”

Following is an example of how to correctly show joint possession when two people own the same house:

  • My aunt and uncle’s house is in Kingsbridge.

However, the rule changes if they own separate houses. Then, you follow this rule: “In cases of separate rather than joint ownership, use the possessive form for both: aunt’s and uncle’s."

  • My aunt’s and uncle’s houses are in Kingsbridge.

So, back to the couple’s favorite TV show. How should the person have communicated that Yellowstone was both her and her spouse’s favorite TV show? Well, she could have said this:

  • My and my spouse’s favorite show is Yellowstone.

But to be honest, I wouldn’t write or say it that way either. It may be technically correct, but it’s as awkward as heck. In situations like this, when a sentence is correct but odd, or when you just don’t know if it’s correct, it’s best to revise it all together. In this instance, I’d write or say something like “Both my spouse and I think Yellowstone is the best show on TV.”

And now I’ll say adieu. Have a lovely day.

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

Pronouns she/her/hers

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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