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.

If a possessive noun, which is plural, is preceded by "each", then should it use the singular or plural possessive form?

For example, which of the following is correct?

  • spend time in each other's presence
  • spend time in each others' presence
share|improve this question
1  
If this is not to be something more than off-topic proofreading, you should expand upon your research, your thinking, and your question. –  tchrist Nov 22 '12 at 15:51
    
C'mon! Singular vs plural, you donno? –  Blessed Geek Nov 22 '12 at 17:10
    
Related (but not, I think, to the point of constituting a duplicate): this question. –  StoneyB Nov 22 '12 at 17:33
3  
There are apparently 650,000 instances of in each others' in Google Books, so if this really is General Reference, that's still a lot of published writers getting it wrong. For that reason alone, I'm not going to closevote. –  FumbleFingers Nov 22 '12 at 18:05
add comment

3 Answers

Each other is singular, so the correct possessive is each other's.

Edit:
I found some controversy on this on the web because each other implies that there are multiple people involved, hence people think it is plural and should be written each others'. This, however, is wrong as each is always singular.

share|improve this answer
4  
Controvery may exist, but it is misled and misleading, because quite simply each takes a singular, always. You do not and cannot say each *men; you only and always say each man. That shows why each others' is necessarily wrong. –  tchrist Nov 22 '12 at 15:56
    
Thanks, updated my answer to reflect your comment. –  joulesm Nov 22 '12 at 16:03
add comment

You may find that style guides say that it must be other's, but both can be defended, other’s because presence is singular, others’ because there is a degree of mutuality in the state described. As Pam Peters put it in ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’, ‘the formal grammar of words and the notional grammar of the underlying semantics are at loggerheads.’

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can omit the apostrophe altogether.

share|improve this answer
1  
Hmm. There's a fine line between being adventurous and being mistaken. Like jumping over a wall to find a forty-foot drop on the other side. –  Andrew Leach Nov 22 '12 at 15:52
    
When do you use each with a plural noun? Never. It must be each man, never each *men. That puts to bed any possibility of each *others'. –  tchrist Nov 22 '12 at 15:58
1  
@tchrist. Pam Peters (see my answer) considers the sentence The group read each other’s / others’ letters. She comments ‘there are multiple participants “in the group” . . . other’s seems a little awkward when the noun following is plural (letters) and the wording implies more than a single exchange.’ But remove the apostrophe altogether and any problem disappears. –  Barrie England Nov 22 '12 at 16:06
1  
@Edwin Ashworth. The John Lewis restaurant in Reading has a sign over the counter for younger eaters that proclaims Childrens. Kingsley Amis gave the example Those things are my husband’s compared with Those things are my husbands. In practice, context, will remove most ambiguity. There are no apostrophes in speech. –  Barrie England Nov 22 '12 at 18:55
1  
@AndrewLeach: Even in that example, the parents don't 'possess' the evening, but an example which shows attributive use perhaps even more clearly is teachers college. –  Barrie England Nov 22 '12 at 19:25
show 8 more comments

Surely it's always each others
Each other is a (reciprocal) pronoun, so in its possessive case it becomes a possessive pronoun.
None of the others: its, his, hers, yours, whose etc has an apostrophe. Adding one is generally seen as a sign of poor literacy.

share|improve this answer
add comment

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.