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Which of these is correct please, if any?

  • my parents' friendship with Sally's parents
  • my parent's friendship with Sally's parents
  • my parents friendship with Sally's parents

What is the correct use of possessive apostrophe in this case?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

"My parents' friendship with Sally's parents" is correct.

When you're confused about apostrophe usage, try substituting the word "of" into the sentence to see if it makes sense.

"The friendship of my parents with the parents of Sally" is grammatically clear (if stilted and certainly not recommended, in speech or in writing).


the friendship of my parents = my parents' friendship


the parents of Sally = Sally's parents

Thus, in the actual sentence, you would need an apostrophe after both "my parents" and "Sally".

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Thanks for the comprehensive answer! Very useful tip on substituting "of." – user13180 Sep 20 '11 at 15:10

The first is correct if you are referring to both of your parents. The second is correct if you only referring to one parent. I don't think the third is correct in any situation.

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Thanks very much, in this case it was both so the first it is! – user13180 Sep 20 '11 at 15:08

Apostrophes for ownership can be tricky, but here's a strategy for you.
1. Figure out who the owner is.
2. Put the apostrophe immediately after the owner.
3. Add "s" if needed.

If the friendship "belongs" to both of your parents: The parents have the friendship, so we immediately follow parents with the apostrophe. Then we add "s" as needed. (Here, we don't need the final "s" because parents is plural noun that ends in "s.") The result is parents'.

If the friendship "belongs" to one parent: The parent has the friendship, so we immediately follow parent with the apostrophe. The we add "s" as needed. The result is parent's.

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