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I'm having trouble deciding whether the word 'name' can be used possessively. Currently I'm thinking it's correct to say:

Patients' names have been altered to provide anonymity

However it just doesn't look right to me. Is the above correct for a group of patients or would any of the following be better:

  • Patients names have been altered to provide anonymity
  • Patient names have been altered to provide anonymity
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2  
Think of it less as possessive and more as genitive‌​. –  Matt Эллен Mar 27 '13 at 15:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Patients' names have been altered to provide anonymity

This is correct.

Patients names have been altered to provide anonymity

This is not.

Patient names have been altered to provide anonymity

I believe most AE speakers would find this acceptable.

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the 3rd suggests as if a patient has multiple names, right? –  camelbrush Mar 27 '13 at 16:13
    
@camelbrush, not really. Although it doesn't exclude that. –  Kevin Mar 27 '13 at 19:59
3  
... however impatient names have been left unchanged to shame them in public.... –  Sherwood Botsford Mar 28 '13 at 5:42

Yes, of course your name belongs to you. That fact notwithstanding, only two of your sentences are correct:

Patients' names have been altered to provide anonymity.

and

Patient names have been altered to provide anonymity.

There are other ways of saying the same thing, e.g.:

The names of the patients have been altered to protect their privacy.

I see sentences like these on occasion in the biomed articles I edit every day.

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