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This isn't my homework. This came up during a friendly debate last night with my mom.

What would be the correct use of the apostrophe and/or plural in the sentence One of my friend(s) house(s) is on sale. in each of the following cases? My guesses are in bold, but do correct me if of them are any are incorrect.

(a) I have exactly one friend, and he has exactly one house which is on sale.

One of my friends' house is on sale.

(b) I have many friends and one of them is selling his only house.

One of my friends' house is on sale.

(c) I have exactly one friend and he is selling one of his many houses.

One of my friends' houses is on sale.

(d) I have many friends and one of them is selling one his many houses.

One of my friends' houses is on sale.

I think the form One of my friend's... will be incorrect in all cases, unless the noun cannot be realized in plural form, such as in One of my mother's friends is a dentist. Is this right?

marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Jul 8 '15 at 10:10

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  • As it stands, this looks very much like a "Please do my homework for me.." question. Regardless of whether that is the case, if you edit the question to include what you think the answers are, and why, it will make the answers you receive much more useful to you and anyone else who is puzzled by this in future as well! – Sam Jul 8 '15 at 8:47
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    Well, if we're going Language Gestapo ... if you have exactly one friend, and he has exactly one house, you would not say "One of my friends' house", you'd say "My friend's house". If you have exactly one friend and he has more than one house, exactly one of which is on sale, you'd say "One of my friend's houses*". The other two cases are awkward, particularly the last, and in real life you'd end up restructuring the sentence to avoid ambiguity. – Dan Bron Jul 8 '15 at 9:27
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The English apostrophe possessive is not amenable to making genitive phrases. Reword using the possessive "of." And here's why, courtesy of www.proofreadnow.com:

You must negotiate the purchase price with the owner of the horse's wife.

Reword thus:

You must negotiate the purchase price with the wife of the horses's owner.

(Edited for anyone who thinks this isn't about buying a horse.)

  • Indentation creates <pre>-formatted code blocks, which don't word-wrap (it's dangerous to line-break code, never know what will happen), which in turn forces readers to scroll horizontally. To quote long passages, use the > initiated blockquote marker. Edited your answer with an example of how it's done. – Dan Bron Jul 8 '15 at 9:46
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    Do not ever reword like that. The two sentences are not even saying remotely the same thing! Bad advice. −1. – RegDwigнt Jul 8 '15 at 10:07
  • Sorry you're displeased, but like what? The sentences say the same thing. Unless, of course, you think the horse has a wife. I'll venture to say that it's always possible to unwrap an apostrophe-s by using "of" to avoid applying the former to a phrase. The latter, an excellent piece of advice. – deadrat Jul 8 '15 at 11:52
  • @deadrat the first sentence applies to purchase prices for things other than a horse; the second does not. – phoog Jul 8 '15 at 14:05
  • @phoog It's my example (well, it's the one I took without negotiating a purchase price) and it's about buying a horse. Not only is this a reasonable inference from the mention of the owner, but this quibble badly misses the point about the advisability of not trying to make a possessive phrase with an apostrophe. Nevertheless, I'll edit the answer. – deadrat Jul 8 '15 at 18:19

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