Does "next player's turn" mean "next turn of the player" or "turn of the next player"? Or can it mean either depending on the context? In this particular case the context is a two player board game such as chess (but not chess) where players alternate to take their turns.

Meta: also I'd appreciate some help with the good question title, as mine clearly is not good.

  • 2
    You have surely answered your own question, simply by the way you ask whether it's next turn [of the player] or [turn of the] next player. You'd hardly do that unless you meant (and expected us to understand) that the word next normally modifies the next noun [phrase] (the one that immediately follows). Feb 7, 2014 at 2:13
  • @FumbleFingers while "player" is a noun "player's" is a possessive form, and as such it looks and behaves more like an adjective than a noun. That's why I got confused. I'm not a native speaker of the language (obviously) so it did not occur to me even for a second that I had answered my own question. In fact I'm still not sure why you are thinking this. Feb 7, 2014 at 4:05
  • To expand on @FumbleFinger's comment, if you write "the green parrot's fruit", you mean the fruit belonging to the green parrot. If you write "the parrot's green fruit", it's the green fruit belonging to the parrot. Similarly, "the next player's turn" is the turn of the next player, and not the same as "the player's next turn", which is the next turn of the player. Feb 7, 2014 at 4:32
  • Next could modify a noun phrase ahead of it. However, player's turn is not a NP. It cannot reach across player's to modify turn. Compare other cases where next occurs before an unambiguous noun phrase and the difference will be clear.
    – Kris
    Feb 7, 2014 at 6:56
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    @Kris: good point ... for example, a "green carpenter's square" is not a square belonging to a green carpenter, but a green tool called a "carpenter's square". Feb 7, 2014 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


It means that it is the other player's turn... because you have finished your turn.

e.g. In chess, you move your Rook (a chess piece). So, your turn is over. It is now the next player's turn, so you must wait for him (her) to finish.

  • Can you include why you think so? Else it's only an opinion.
    – Kris
    Feb 7, 2014 at 6:52
  • "only an opinion"... Go around and talk to real people mate... and play chess. And then you will know what "next player's turn" means (and that I am right) :)
    – daCoda
    Feb 11, 2014 at 23:07

In light of comments to the question, I think we have to accept that syntactically, constructions of the form the [adjective] [possessive] [noun] are inherently ambiguous. Consider, for example,...

a big girl's blouse

Putting aside the fact that this is informal British term for a weak, cowardly, or oversensitive man, there's structural ambiguity as to whether the "literal" meaning is a blouse belonging to a big girl, or a big blouse belonging to a girl.

With OP's example, we could in principle contrive a context where a game involved turns taken by both players and the game controller - a betting game, for example, distinguishing between (any) player's turn and the banker's turn. Feasibly therefore, one might say "We'll take a break after the next player's turn" (but there might be a banker's turn before that).

To make the context even more contrived, if we suppose there's only one player in the game (along with the banker), he could be identified as the player. It would be meaningless to speak of the next player, since there's only one, but we could validly refer to the next turn of the player.

TL;DR: By default, next modifies the first "credible" NP after it. It would be semantically perverse to interpret player's turn as the likely referent, given that player is perfectly credible. The possessive apostrophe modifies the nearest credible NP before it (in OP's case, that's next player).

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