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In a compound noun with a postpositive adjective, such as "Director-General" or "Court Martial," the noun is pluralized by using the plural form of the first word (i.e. "Directors-General" or "Courts Martial").

Question:

How are possessive forms of both the singular and plural compound nouns formed?

Answer formats:

Please include the "Director-General" and "Court Martial" example in your response.

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What are you asking? The question as worded will not elicit the answer you need, because you have asked the wrong question altogether. Please do not make people guess. –  tchrist Mar 17 '13 at 20:03
    
I think this question is asking about the awkwardness of an expression like "the Court's Martial history of leniency" and how to avoid it. –  tylerharms Mar 17 '13 at 20:24
    
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@tylerharms You have to make the whole phrase possessive. –  tchrist Mar 17 '13 at 20:26
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@tchrist: I would use the "Norman genitive" (thanks for that phrase, btw) if it were me and avoid the issue. –  tylerharms Mar 17 '13 at 20:32
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marked as duplicate by tchrist, coleopterist, waiwai933 Mar 18 '13 at 0:09

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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You make the noun plural and the entire phrase possessive using the so-called “Saxon genitive”:

  • The queen of England’s favorite food is cake.
  • All queens of England’s favorite food is cake.

Compare:

  • The attorney general’s office.
  • All attorneys general’s offices.

If that annoys you when you do that, then as the doctor said, don’t do that — just use the ((generally) awkward) “Norman genitive” instead:

  • Cake is the favorite food of all the queens of England.
  • The offices of the attorneys general.
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