It was for the boys' father's birthday. Does this sentence sound natural to native English speakers? If not, how can I correct this sentence? Can I use apostrophes in a row as in boys' father's? How about "it was for the birthday of the boys' father"?


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  • 1
    Why do you think the use of apostrophes is incorrect? – nohat Mar 10 '15 at 5:21
  • @nohat I don't know.. so you're saying the sentence is not grammatically incorrect? – cellardoor Mar 10 '15 at 5:26
  • @cellardoor Are you saying that you’re thinking that it is “grammatically incorrect”? If so, please explain exactly why you suspect this: tell us what does not sound natural to you. Possibly also explain “grammatically incorrect”. :) – tchrist Mar 10 '15 at 5:31
  • The sentence is fine the way it is. You could rearrange it to be easier to parse, but to a native English speaker doing so would make the sentence sound more awkward. – Hot Licks Mar 13 '15 at 3:25

Sentence in question:

It was for the boys' father's birthday.

This is a valid sentence. It refers to the birthday of a father that has more than one boy. The birthday belongs to the father, the father is relative to the 2+ boys.

The first apostrophe should be earlier (boy's) if there is only one boy. The second apostrophe should be later (fathers') if there is more than one father, but then you would (probably) be referring to more than one birthday (birthdays).

If you wanted something less ambiguous, don't string it together that way. While I don't consider it ambiguous, I might consider it awkward. Try this alternative on for size:

It was for the birthday of the boys' father.

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