Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Which of the following is correct?

  • Each person's car has four wheels.
  • Each persons' car has four wheels.
share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

"Each" refers to a singular. Hence, it should be:

Each person's car has four wheels.

share|improve this answer

First off, the correct answer is "each person's".

Why? each is a determiner of English representing universal quantification. This quantifier states that a predicate is true for everything or everything of a particular subset. Here, the set is all cars and the predicate is something like "x has four wheels". This can then be formalized to something like: ∀xP(x), x∈{cars} and P(x)=x has four wheels. The nature of this quantification means that x must be singular in number. If it helps, think of a foreach loop in various programming languages.

The 's is a different issue. Without delving too much into X-Bar theory, here's a simple explanation. The 's too is actually a determiner and is dominated by the first Determiner Phrase. For example, a simple model:

[DP each person [DP 's car]].

This matches other languages (like German) nicely where the genitive is still represented by a "full" word. This also lets you get away with wild things like: "[the man who lives over by the field and has red hair]'s car has four wheels."

share|improve this answer
    
Can you clarify what DP means in "dominated by the first DP"? –  Jonik Aug 9 '10 at 21:25
    
Sure thing–a bit out of scope of the answer, but added some Google terms and links. –  Charlie Aug 9 '10 at 23:24
1  
mind = blown. Thanks! –  Bryan Downing Aug 10 '10 at 17:43
    
(re: wild things) or, more canonically, "The Queen of England's hat". –  nohat Aug 13 '10 at 23:47

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.