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Which is appropriate while addressing in-laws?

My mother-in-law and father-in-law are visiting us this weekend.

Or:

My mother and father-in-law are visiting us this weekend.

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I have heard "My in-laws are coming this weekend." Which would help compound the sentence. –  shachna Jun 27 '12 at 6:51

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The first avoids the ambiguity of the second, where the visitors could conceivably be the speaker's father-in-law and the speaker's mother.

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As Barrie has said, one removes the ambiguity you have identified.

You could say something more idiomatic, like "My in-laws are coming," or "My wife's parents are coming," which are certainly less awkward. Or even, "My wife's mother and father are coming," if you want to include both separately.

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If you are writing the sentence, punctuating it this way will help the meaning, too:

My mother- and father-in-law are visiting us this weekend.

It's called a suspended hyphen. If you're speaking it, though, it's probably better to say mother-in-law and father-in-law.

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How about:

My parents-in-law are visiting us this weekend.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_plurals#Plurals_of_compound_nouns

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