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I've seen this addressed a lot with "and", but not with "or".

In the three following sentences:

It isn't John's or Mary's fault.

It isn't John or Mary's fault.

It isn't John's or Mary's faults.

Which would be correct, and why?

closed as off-topic by Kris, Misti, Zairja, andy256, Drew Jan 30 '15 at 1:25

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    This question may be better on English Language Learners – Kris Jan 28 '15 at 7:16
  • @*"It isn't the fault of John or of Mary", "It isn't his or her fault" Quote: "That is, as salary increased, both men's and women's willingness to date a target increased."* And finally, consider: Whose brains shrunk more, men's or women's? Here obviously Whose brains shrunk more, men or women's? won't work so well. It seems the clitic can go after the co-ordination or after the individual nouns. – Araucaria Jan 30 '15 at 14:03
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I don't know why you think it would be different with or. As always, the clitic 's gets tacked on the end of the entire noun phrase that it is intended to apply to.

So it must be "It isn't (John or Mary)'s fault", with the parens here used only to indicate the scope of the clitic, not to imply optionality.

Flip it around for proof: "It isn't the fault of John or Mary."

  • "It isn't the fault of John or of Mary", "It isn't his or her fault" Quote: "That is, as salary increased, both men's and women's willingness to date a target increased." And finally, consider: Whose brains shrunk more, men's or women's? Here obviously Whose brains shrunk more, men or women's? won't work so well. It seems the clitic can go after the co-ordination or the individual nouns. – Araucaria Jan 30 '15 at 14:02

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