I am always confused with the following case:

Let's say, I have two friends and each of them has a book. Which of the sentences is correct?

(1) 'Books of my friends are nice.' (2) 'Book of my friends is nice.'

The thing that confuses me is as follows: In sentence (1), there is a meaning that each of my friends has multiple books which is not true. In sentence (2), it has a meaning that there is only one nice book, which is not correct either.

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  • 3
    Language is inherently ambiguous and only context and reason can rescue from and unbounded miasma of meaninglessness. Side note: a native speaker would probably phrase this "My friends' books are nice". And final PS: you might like our sister stack, English Language Learners. – Dan Bron Feb 28 '15 at 13:32
  • english.stackexchange.com/… I narrowed the search to 200! – Mari-Lou A Feb 28 '15 at 14:03
  • 1
    The OP should be confused with those sentences. Both (1) and (2) are ungrammatical for multiple reasons already. Discussions about the workings of verb agreement and constituency inside ungrammatical sentences never explains anything well. Start with real sentences: My friends' books are nice vs My friend's book is nice. Is the question necessary then? – John Lawler Feb 28 '15 at 16:43
  • Did my answer not help you? Perhaps it wasn't clear but neither of the two sentences you proposed are grammatical, as Dan Bron and John Lawler both pointed out. The grammatically correct versions would be: 1) My friends' books are... (note the possessive apostrophe after the PLURAL noun: friends 2) My friend's book is... (note the possessive apostrophe between the SINGULAR noun: friend and the -s) The alternative "The book(s) of my friends is/are..." is grammatical but it is not idiomatic. People don't say it. – Mari-Lou A Mar 1 '15 at 8:55
  • For the record, My friends’ book is nice is also grammatical and valid. It just means that your friends only have one book in total: they share it. A more logical use case for this construction would be My parents’ house is nice (your parents live together in just one house) vs. My parents’ houses are nice (your parents live separately in each their own house(s) or your parents live together but own several houses). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 1 '15 at 11:00

Let's say, I have two friends and each of them has a book.

In other words the OP wants to emphasize that both his friends have got a book.

Which of the sentences is correct?
(1) 'Books of my friends are nice.' (2) 'Book of my friends is nice.'

The first sentence proposed by the OP is neither idiomatic nor grammatical.
A grammatical sentence would be: (1) The books of my friends are nice.

Without context the second phrase proposed by the OP sounds as if there are two or more friends who share one book. A grammatical and more plausible-meaning phrase would be:
(2) The book of my friend is nice.

However, native speakers do not usually use the above construction, instead they will say:
(1) My friends' books are... and (2) My friend's book is....

Although sentence (1) My friends' books are nice is grammatical and idiomatic, it doesn't tell us how many friends the speaker has nor how many books each friend has got. Friend A might have two books while Friend B might have hundreds. If the speaker feels it is important to specify the number of friends, I would suggest the following

  1. Both my friends have got a nice book
  2. Each of my [two] friends has got a nice book
  3. My two friends each have a nice book
  1. Both

We use both to refer to two things or people together:

Both those chairs are occupied, I’m afraid. (The two chairs are occupied.)

Are both your parents going to Chile? (Are your mother and father going to Chile?)

  1. each

used to refer to every one of two or more people or things, regarded and identified separately

  • Each of the answers is worth 20 points.

Grammar Point
Each is used in front of a singular noun and is followed by a singular verb:
Each student has been given his or her own email address.
The use of his or her sometimes sounds slightly formal and it is becoming more common to use the plural pronoun their: Each student has been given their own email address.

When each is used after a plural subject, it has a plural verb:
They each have their own email address.

  1. Each referring to a subject

When we use each to refer to the subject of the clause, it usually appears in the normal mid position for adverbs, between the subject and the main verb, after the modal verb or first auxiliary verb, or after be as a main verb:

We each agreed to help by contributing some money towards the cost.

We would each say a poem or sing a song.

Have you each signed the contract?

Husband and wife are each entitled to invest up to the maximum of£40,000

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