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When adding possessive-S/apostrophe to a list, the rule is only the last person has the apostrophe if the item is shared, or everyone has one if they have the items each, e.g.

John and Mary's houses = the houses that belong jointly to John and Mary.

John's and Mary's houses = the houses that belong to John and Mary as individuals, at least one each.

However, I am curious if the rules are slightly different when possessive pronouns are used for a single item.

You and Mary's house OR your and Mary's house?

I'm even more unclear when the first person is involved.

Mary and my house OR Mary's and my house?

Finally, when there are at least three people, including the first person, does the last named person have the possessive-S/apostrophe, or all/none of them?

  • John, Mary and my house
  • John, Mary's and my house
  • John's, Mary's and my house

I'd be very grateful to anyone able to clarify this, ideally with a some form of reference, as I can't find it anywhere.


There have been several suggestions to use "our", yet if the text refers to a group of people, all of whom own co-own houses with some others within the group*, then the above style wording would be necessary, so my question stands.

* eg I own a house with John and Mary, I co-own another with Peter and yet another with Philip and Sarah.

  • 1
    JoAnne has a point. I think most of use would simply avoid this kind of unwieldy sentence and just use a different phrasing. – terdon Nov 19 '14 at 12:51
  • I would suggest 'Yours and Mary's house' / 'Mine and Mary's house' as possible options but I'm only basing that on what I think I would say in conversation. – DaveMongoose Oct 27 '16 at 14:48
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It should be "Mary's and your house" (note the change of order for the owners). http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/apostro.asp .

I think it should be "John's, Mary's and my house" or "John and Mary's and my house" but the later implies that John and Mary are connected in some way in addition to the joint house ownership.

However, if possible I would reword the sentence so that "your house" or "our house" sufficed.

  • Thank you for your input. I'm aiming to find and understand the rule, rather than avoid it. – ColinT Nov 19 '14 at 4:46
  • I have edited my answer to include a reference which was the first result from a simple google search of "possessive using apostrophe s". – JoAnne Nov 19 '14 at 10:56
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If there is one house it is clear in any form, but if there are several houses, as you point out, then it can be ambiguous. "John, Mary, and my houses" would be different than "John's, Mary's, and my houses."

That being said, "Our houses are all on Oak Street," tells us little about ownership. I get that you are not trying to avoid the rule, but to avoid ambiguity, which is the reason for rules, we need to provide additional information.

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