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Possible Duplicate:
“My wife and I’s seafood collaboration dinner”

I’m sure there are better ways to write the following sentence, but I was curious to know if this sentence is grammatically correct:

Every day, Mike would send letters to Sarah and Thomas’s daughters’ boyfriends.

My hunch is that the apostrophe placement is incorrect. The idea is that Mike is sending letters to the daughters of Sarah and Thomas.

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Marthaª, MετάEd, tchrist, Mitch Dec 18 '12 at 4:48

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It’s grammatical, but ambiguous. Did he send letters to Sarah and to the boyfriends of the daughters of Thomas, or did he send letters to the boyfriends of the daughters of Sarah and Thomas? If the former, it might be better expressed as

Every day, Mike would send letters to Sarah. He would also send them to the boyfriends of Thomas's daughters.

If the latter,

Every day, Mike would send letters to the boyfriends of Sarah’s and Thomas's daughters.

If Sarah and Thomas are the parents of the same daughters, it might be best put as

Every day, Mike would send letters to the boyfriends of the daughters of Sarah and Thomas.

but even that would depend on the context.

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Is it really really ambiguous? It seems to me that the ambiguity is essentially an invention of grammar pedants. In reality, if you say "to Sarah and Thomas'(s) daughter", you fairly unambiguously mean the daughter of the couple [Sarah and Thomas]. Otherwise, people would tend to say "to Sarah and to Thomas('s) daughter". (And in pronunciation, it is entirely unambiguous.) – Neil Coffey Dec 17 '12 at 20:09
@Neil Coffey. Perhaps, but Sarah and Thomas' daughters' boyfriends is still a cumbersome way of putting it. In practice, it would probably occur as something like You know Sarah and Thomas? Well, their daughters had boyfriends at the time, and what do you think? That Mike - you know, the one I told you about - he sent the boyfriends letters every day, apparently. What do you make of that? – Barrie England Dec 17 '12 at 20:22
Yes - the example seems contrived anyway - surely the daughters would have been introduced in a prior sentence. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '12 at 20:35

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