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If I was to label something

The Poets and Painters' Distillery

do I only apply the possessive apostrophe after 'Painters' as in the text written above, or do I also need to apply one to 'Poets' so that it becomes

The Poets' and Painters' Distillery ?

I'm thinking the former is correct, but cannot be too sure.

16

You are right. If the distillery is jointly possessed by the poets and painters then you only need the apostrophe after Painters.

Similarly, John and Mary's house is the house owned jointly by John and Mary. If John and Mary each have their own houses, then you need apostrophes after both possessive nouns: John's and Mary's houses. Note, however, that to remove any ambiguity as to how many houses each has you need to repeat the possessed noun: John's house and Mary's houses.

  • +1 confirm I was about to write the same when I saw Shoe's answer. – Mari-Lou A Jul 26 '13 at 6:52
  • +1 But John may have two houses and Mary three. Then "John's and Mary's houses" is unambiguous (although some information is not provided). – bib Jul 26 '13 at 13:45
  • bib, agreed. To remove all ambiguity you would need to specify as follows: John's one house and Mary's two houses / John's two houses and Mary's three houses ... e.g. have been repossessed. – Shoe Jul 26 '13 at 14:34
  • @Shoe, “John’s one house” is not really necessary: if ‘house’ is kept in the singular, you know there is only one. “John’s house and Mary’s three houses” works equally well (or awkwardly). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 26 '13 at 14:47

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