I've read Preferred way to apostrophise in case of dual or multiple ownership by distinct entities and "Nikki's and Alice's X" vs. "Nikki and Alice's X", but my question is a little different. Not sure if the title is correctly chosen or not.

So the question is, if something belongs to a person, whose name I don't know for example, then I would say:

  1. It's my uncle's sister's nephew's object
  2. It's my uncle sister nephew's object

I suppose the first one would be correct, but it looks strange. Can anyone point to a rule that specifically states how to deal with the possessive apostrophe in those situations?

  • 3
    It's the second one that looks strange, sounds strange, and makes no sense to boot. The rule is that "uncle's" means "belonging to the uncle", while "uncle" simply means "uncle". Just like with any other word, really. So "uncle's sister" is the sister of the uncle, while "uncle sister" is your sister who is also your uncle. You don't want to make people think you're El Hechizado, do you?
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 13:38
  • @RegDwigнt Makes sense. Thanks. Not sure about the down votes though. Oh well. Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 15:01
  • Don't take it too seriously. I get stray downvotes myself quite regularly.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 15:05

1 Answer 1


The first example is the correct usage as it is the object of the nephew of your uncle's sister.

  1. It's my uncle's sister's nephew's object

It does not matter how many people are in the list, each one will still have a possessive apostrophe in a list like this.

  1. It's my uncle sister nephew's object

This doesn't make any sense as it describes the object of someone who is your uncle-sister-nephew.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.