Is it correct to use the genitive case in: "The three Wise Men's Day"? Thank you!

  • 4
    Perfectly grammatical. And perfectly uncommon.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 12, 2015 at 18:49
  • What date does "The Three Wise Men's Day" fall on? Somehow I must have missed it.
    – Erik Kowal
    Jan 12, 2015 at 19:25
  • It's always January 6th, it's usually referred to as "Three King's Day, and if you're gonna say "Three Wise Men's Day", you don't need the definite article.
    – Oldbag
    Jan 12, 2015 at 19:34
  • 1
    @Oldbag That is true in the Western Church, but some Orthodox use the Julian calendar and thus observe Theophany on Jan. 19. And in Catholicism, in areas where Epiphany is not a holy day of obligation (for example, the U.S.), it is transferred to the Sunday between Jan. 2 and Jan. 8 even though Christmastide continues until the following Sunday. Thus, the solemnity was observed on January 4 this year.
    – choster
    Jan 12, 2015 at 23:31
  • The Coptic Christian dentist I work for celebrated on Jan.7th this year. But he called it "Christmas". The holiday I'm referring to is the traditional gift-giving day of certain Roman Catholics. They put hay under their beds (or in their shoes) for the camels, (that the Three Kings are riding to find the Christ-child) and they get presents (like Baby Jesus)
    – Oldbag
    Jan 12, 2015 at 23:39

3 Answers 3


Yes, because the possessive "'s" attaches to a phrase rather than to a word (or, at least, the last word of a phrase -- it's not clear). So, you could also have, for instance, "The people who wear tall hat's day is February 3." The structure is, for your example, [NP [Det [NP the three wise men ]'s ] day ], that is it's a noun phrase consisting of a determiner and a noun "day", where the determiner is a noun phrase with "'s" suffixed. Note the "the" does not go with "day", but rather with "men".

It's odd to have a suffix "'s" going with a phrase rather than with a word, so one is naturally suspicious of this structure which the sense of the construction seems to demand. Perhaps the "'s" actually attaches to the last word in the noun phrase, rather than to the noun phrase itself. You can test this by constructing examples with noun phrases ending in words which have irregular possessive forms, like me's ==> my. If it's really a word that the "'s" goes with, you should get the irregular possessive form. "February 12 is men who like me's day." versus "February 12 is men who like my day."

  • Why is it so odd to have a suffix that attaches to a phrase? Such suffixes are quite common in all Germanic languages, though few have the productive range and ubiquity of -’s. But really, -ish, -like, -able, and many other suffixes are perfectly happy to attach to phrases as well. Apr 12, 2015 at 20:42
  • It's odd because the phonology and morphology are set up to deal with affixes as parts of words. What do you do when the morphology is telling you that a possessive form of a word is irregular but the affix 's is part of the phrase rather than the word? In general, there is no good solution. me's book -> my book. [John and me]'s book -> John('s) and my book. [the man who saw me]'s book -> ?? Suppletion works just fine for words, because the number of special forms to memorize is finite and small. But for phrases? You can't memorize all the combinations.
    – Greg Lee
    Apr 12, 2015 at 21:11

In English the Christian feast is commonly referred to as Epiphany and is celebrated January 6. In the Church of England, the eve of Epiphany is called the Twelfth Night and the first Monday after January 6 used to be known as Plough Monday.

I would advise the OP to avoid calling Epiphany as "Three Wise Men's Day". Although the Magi who visited the infant Jesus are also known as the Three Wise Men, the English feast is not named after them. The holiday which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ is called Christmas and not Jesus's birthday, although that is an accurate description.

In countries across the world, Epiphany is called:

  • In Argentina and Uruguay, the day is called "Día de Reyes" (The Day of Kings)
  • In Bulgaria, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 and is known as Bogoyavlenie ("Manifestation of God"), Кръщение Господне (Krashtenie Gospodne or "Baptism of the Lord") or Yordanovden ("Day of Jordan", referring to the river)
  • The Dutch and Flemish call this day Driekoningen, while German speakers call it Dreikönigstag (Three Kings' Day).
  • In Brazil, the day is called "Dia dos Reis" (The Day of Kings)
  • In Finland, Epiphany is called loppiainen, a name which goes back to the 1600s. In the 1500s the Swedish-Finnish Lutheran church called Epiphany "Day of the Holy Three Kings", while before this, the older term Epiphania was used.
  • In Greece, Cyprus and the Greek diaspora throughout the world, the feast is called the Theophany
  • In parts of southern India, Epiphany is called the Three Kings Festival
  • The Irish call it the Feast of the Epiphany or traditionally Little Christmas or "Women's Christmas"
  • Epiphany is known in Latvia as Trijkungu diena (Three Kings Day)
  • In Malta, Epiphany is commonly known as It-Tre Re (The Three Kings).
  • In Poland, Epiphany is also called "Trzech Króli" (Three Kings)
  • In Portugal, Epiphany, January 6, is called dia dos Reis (Day of the Kings)
  • In Spain and some Latin American countries, Epiphany day is called El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings)

Source: Wikipedia


Whilst gramatically this is correct, it's a bit fiddly and I would try to rephrase.
For example, rather than

The three wise men's day had been awful

You could try saying

The day had been awful for the three wise men

The day of the three wise man had been awful

Or you couls completely rephrase the question to be, as Janus pointed out:

The three wise men had had an awful day

As has also been pointed out, if you are refering to a holiday or pub for example, then that is correct (depending on what the holiday etc. is called,) however you would need to capitalise three as well:

"The Three Wise Men's Day" e.g. Our holiday at "The Three Wise Men's Day" was incredible

  • Or more idiomatically: “The three wise men had had an awful day.” The capitalisation in the question makes me think this is intended as the name of some kind of holiday, though, rather than as a simple noun phrase. Jan 12, 2015 at 19:10
  • Yes, exactly, that's a good point thanks @JanusBahsJacquet
    – joe_young
    Jan 12, 2015 at 19:10
  • Although it could just be capitalisation for holy figures, e.g. out of respect (like God, or Jesus capitalised whenever.) @JanusBahsJacquet
    – joe_young
    Jan 12, 2015 at 19:16
  • @JanusBahsJacquet It’s what the Spanish-speaking world calls the holiday that we in English normally call Epiphany. This is not an exact match culturally, but it is clearly the sort of religious holy day or secular holiday that the OP had in mind.
    – tchrist
    Mar 13, 2015 at 22:25

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