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Most people seem to stumble over this. The problem can arise with any multi-word phrase that needs a possessive but ends in S, and so sounds awkward using the clitic apostrophe-S. I've heard this particular one variously rendered as:

  • You guys'
  • You guys's
  • Your guys' / your guy's

What's you guys...your...guises...what's your take on it?

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1  
LOL at the last sentence, but I also think you just answered your own question. :) –  Marthaª Feb 11 '11 at 23:04
    
Although "you guys'" is technically correct, it sounds awkward. It might be better to use "your". –  Kramii Nov 11 '11 at 10:16

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Regardless of the various permutations being thrown around these days, the correct possessive of you guys is you guys’, spoken or written, and I quote (emphasis mine):

To form the possessive case of a plural noun ending in s, add only the apostrophe.

EXAMPLES

  • highways’ intersection
  • the beetles’ legs

John E. Warriner, Warriner's English Grammar and Composition (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986), 243

Since you guys is a plural noun, it is subject to the above rule, which has no exception, as far as I know.

Indeed, you guys's is not an uncommon colloqiualism (I have even used it myself on occasion) but it is grammatically incorrect, and thus has no place in standard, proper or formal contexts, whether spoken or written.

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Just to throw a wrench into the mix, "you guys" can be singular, with the plural form being (of course) "youse guys." –  BryanH Jan 29 '13 at 16:53
    
“Correct”? Warriner is the guide to correct usage? You guys is colloquial anyway; it doesn't necessarily follow the orthographic conventions prescribed in a literary standard. I would spell it your guys’s if I were trying to convey the prounciation [jur gaɪzɪz]. –  John Peyton Jul 24 at 15:24

You guys' is correct written, pronounced you guys's. (Dropping the s on the written version because guys is a plural, not because I think it should always be dropped if the word ends in an s.) You rather than your because you guys is a unit and the possessive case doesn't need to be commuted across each element of it.

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The pronunciation you guys's is incorrect, in my opinion. Would you really say "the boys's toys", for instance?! –  Jimi Oke Feb 12 '11 at 0:07
    
@Jimi Oke: I certainly would, if the alternative is saying something aurally indistinguishable from the clearly incorrect "the boys toys". –  chaos Feb 12 '11 at 0:11
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... so you're saying that, to avoid saying something correct ("the boys' toys") that happens to sound identical to something ungrammatical ("the boys toys"), you'd say something equally ungrammatical ("the boys's toys")? You're entitled to do so, I suppose, but I reserve my right to find it strange :-) –  psmears Mar 4 '11 at 16:30
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No, a bare apostrophe is never pronounced as anything. If you say an extra "uhz" at the end, you must write apostrophe plus s, never a lone apostrophe. –  tchrist May 17 '12 at 16:07

"You guys" is very informal, so... I'd just say "Hey, you guys, your bikes just got run over by a steamroller". And then turn around and run like hell in case they want to kill the messenger. ;-)

Seriously, I wouldn't even try to find possessive, since "You guys" is just a form of address. What I mean is, it's just (my reading) a kind of "plural of dude" (okay, "dudes"... but do people say that?)

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It's because English lacks a second person plural. It wasn't always the case - "you" was formerly second person plural ("thou" was second person singular). In the north you have "you guys"; in the south, we have "y'all". –  Chris B. Behrens Feb 11 '11 at 22:37
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@Chris B. Behrens: You Southern boys don't have a monopoly on 2nd person plural constructions other than "you guys". In some Northern locales the plural of you is youse. In the area around Pittsburgh, some people still say yins (presumably short for you'uns). The rest of us realize that the 2nd person plural is, in fact, you. –  Robusto Feb 12 '11 at 0:08
    
'Yins' is a new one on me. –  Chris B. Behrens Feb 14 '11 at 15:22

I believe the correct usage is "youse guyses", though American English spellers may substitute the "s" for a "z".

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Do you mean to say that you would indicate both terms with the possessive (that is, something like "you's guys' ")? Isn't it slightly too much? –  Paola May 17 '12 at 15:57
    
@Paola Language likes redundancy! Latin, for instance, lets case, gender and number be marked on a whole row of words within a phrase—and the number of a subject additionally on the verb! –  John Peyton Jul 24 at 15:34

If a multi-word phrase takes a possessive, you can add ’s to the whole thing:

  • The King of France’s crown

  • The boy she likes’s books

Constructions like this are unlikely to occur in formal or written English. Some speakers may not pronounce the extra ’s, in which case it could be written with just an apostrophe.

In the case of you guys, it’s hard to tell: the word is colloquial (and regional), and there aren’t easily available sources describing the usage of the possessive. Your guys’ and your guys’s seem to both be “acceptable” (i.e. used normally by native speakers) in the greater Philadelphia area; you guys’ and you guys’s might be common elsewhere, but they sound a bit strange to me. (In Philadelphia proper, youse guys’ is probably used too!)

Since you guys is colloquial, if you’re writing down the possessive of the word, you should use a spelling that reflects its pronunciation. If you’re wondering what to use in conversation, the answer is whatever you’ve been using all along. (I probably use your guys’ and your guys’s most of the time.)

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I’ve always found your guys’ quite bizarre. My guys’? I don’t own any guys (that I know of, at least). It’s like treating you guys as a transparent collocation of pronoun and noun, but then giving it a possessive form that doesn’t fit with how pronouns and nouns collocate in this manner after all! After all, nobody—to my knowledge—would say that the possessive of you people and you children is your people’s and your children’s. To me, you guys is simply a single pronominal unit with a plural /z/, and it therefore has no morphological possessive. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 at 16:13
    
Well, that’s just bizarre and un-English! Interlexemic inflection … what is this, Finnish? ;-) –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 at 16:23
    
It is a single pronominal unit that happens to inflect in both its parts. Think of it like bon mot, which can be bons mots in the plural. Don’t worry about how it works; it just does :) It’s a pronoun, it can afford to act exceptionally. –  John Peyton Jul 24 at 16:25
    
Hmm, does it feel better to think of your as the pronoun and guys’ as a particle implying plurality? –  John Peyton Jul 24 at 16:31
    
Mmmmnope, not really. Ah well. I’ll live. Bons mots is fine, ’cause there’s a logical reason (albeit in a different language) for it. It’s similar to how in Danish, the possessive of hvem “who” is more and more frequently hvems “who’s” rather than hvis “whose”, and then the phrase Hvis er det? “Whose is this?” has the audacity to be quite unreasonably warped into Hvemses er detses? “Who’s’s is this’s’s”, with no less than two double possessives tacked on—one of them to a word that has absolutely no business being in the possessive to begin with. Madness! –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 at 16:35

protected by RegDwigнt May 17 '12 at 21:47

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