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If I am trying to say “That problem that belongs to someone else,” then what is the correct word to use in this sentence:

That is someone else’s problem.

My spell checker says else’s and elses are not words and does not have a correction suggestion for it. What is the correct word to use?

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Just a FYI, the spell checker that is missing the word is the one included with Firefox 6.0. –  Scott Chamberlain Aug 31 '11 at 16:19
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Putt knot yore tryst inn spill chequers. –  Lunivore Aug 31 '11 at 16:30
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4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I would say, "That's an SEP". Anyone who knows me would know what I mean.

In any event else's is perfectly fine. Dictionary.com's entry for else says, "other or in addition (used in the possessive following an indefinite pronoun): someone else's money."

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As an impecunious teenager, I always used to say my preferred cigarette brand was SE. By far the cheapest! –  FumbleFingers Aug 31 '11 at 17:29
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There is nothing wrong with "someone else's". Inexplicably, many spelling checkers don't automatically recognize possessives of user-added words, so don't try to read much out of that.

From a grammatical perspective, the key insight is that -'s is not a word clitic, it is a phrase clitic. For example, it may be informal or even a little unidiomatic, but it is not ungrammatical to utter or write sentences like the following:

I take exception to the senator from Maryland's remarks. The package that arrived on Monday's return address was somewhere in Texas. The man I was talking to's attitude really bothered me.

Worrying about the placement of the possessive clitic is someone else's hang-up.

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"Another's" I'd say. "Someone else's problem" is idiomatic and totally ok too.

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To say or write else's, or elses etc. is improper English. No matter how you look at it. However it is obviously considered to be accepted. Much like the word 'ain't'. Else's or elses' would be an equivalent 'slang' usage of the word else. Rather than to say, "That is someone elses". The proper usage of the word would have to be phrased, "That belongs to someone else". No matter how accepted its usage is, no matter how many people know exactly what you mean when you use the slang form 'elses' or 'else's', it's simply incorrect. This is actually taught in grade school, say about 6th grade level. Of course I'm thirty now, so it could be being taught at an early grade. You can verify there is no such usage of the word else, other than as it is the word, else. Check with a New Websters Dictionary if you're ever in doubt. Most dictionary websites have plenty of broadly accepted slang words or slang usage of words. Websters dictionary is online as well. Here is the link http://www.merriam-webster.com
Simply visit that site and type 'else' in the search. If you understand what the word 'else' actually means, you'll find that it is one of those words that is very commonly miss-used, even without making it plural.

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This answer is wrong on all accounts. Else's is perfectly grammatical, and has been for centuries. The Corpus of Historical American English has 2136 cites going back all the way to 1830. OED will have older ones, but I can't check right now. The Corpus of Contemporary American English has a whopping 4629 cites from all registers. I highly recommend that you read up on what slang actually means, and what linguists consider grammatical. Oh, and "else's" is not plural. –  RegDwigнt Aug 20 '12 at 18:48
    
Also, check out this question on the Saxon genitive and the top answer to it by an actual linguist. Thanks. –  RegDwigнt Aug 20 '12 at 18:49
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protected by RegDwigнt Aug 20 '12 at 18:50

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