I am aware that the universally accepted style is to put an apostrophe-s at the end of the second possessor's name.

Example: Amy and Steve's car

My question is not whether that is the common rule; I know it is.

My question is whether anyone knows of a style guide, grammar, or other authority that condones writing this in the usual style of a plural possessor; that is, with an apostrophe on the end of the compound/plural owner's name:

John and Jacks' house

John Merrill, Stephen Arthur, Chuck Williams, and Donald Smiths' law firm


  • 1
    Apostrophes can only do so much; they're silent, after all. How would you say the two different sentences with different meanings? If there are two different meanings -- and if there aren't, what's the problem? Aug 27, 2015 at 15:48
  • 1
    related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/120449/…
    – Jim
    Aug 27, 2015 at 16:21
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    @JohnLawler It's a question about written style.
    – SAH
    Aug 28, 2015 at 8:42
  • Yeah, but that just means it's a question about representing spoken language in print. Written style has to do with details of the representation, as long as they don't obscure the representation. If you would say Amy's and Steve's car, as opposed to Amy and Steve's car, by all means write it. I can think of several reasons why I might prefer two possessives instead of one -- for instance, to leave the way open for an inference that, while Amy and Steve are joint owners of the car, they are not a couple, which is at least an invited inference of Amy and Steve's car Aug 28, 2015 at 15:41
  • @JohnLawler I'm sorry but I don't follow your point. You think I shouldn't be asking about correct written style because the expressions sound the same?
    – SAH
    Sep 18, 2015 at 20:19

4 Answers 4


I'm not going to do an exhaustive search of usage manuals -- and I don't think it's worth your while to either, because

John and Jacks' house

would mean the house belong to John and Jacks, where Jacks is the name of one person. (Perhaps it's a nickname.)

So... nice idea, but I don't think it will fly.

  • I'm afraid this didn't answer my question.
    – SAH
    Sep 9, 2015 at 16:08
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    Also, I disagree with your claim that a house belonging to a "John" and a "Jacks" would be "John and Jacks' house." I think it would instead be "John and Jacks's house" (as it would be "John and Chris's house").
    – SAH
    Sep 9, 2015 at 16:10

Thanks for this question. I sometimes wonder and would sometimes want reliable references for some language styles. I saw an article Possessive with Two Nouns which says--

"The possessive case can be confusing, especially when two nouns are doing the possessing. Fortunately, The Chicago Manual of Style sheds light on this conundrum. [emphasis mine]

"Chicago says that when two nouns “possess” the same entity, only the second takes an apostrophe (‘):

my aunt and uncle’s house

Gilbert and Sullivan’s lolanthe

Minneapolis and Saint Paul’s transportation system"


I hope this answers your question.


You don't need a style guide. Most gramnars mention this special kind of s-genitive:

  • I've just been to Peter and Zoe's flat.

This is much more usual than "Peter's and Zoe's flat. Source: Oxford Guide to English Grammar, John Eastwood, section 146e.

  • ... unless both Peter and Zoe have their own flat, in which case it's Peter's and Zoe's flats. Sep 29, 2015 at 13:19
  • @Peter Shor I think that in case of too different flats the formulation should make this clear.
    – rogermue
    Sep 29, 2015 at 13:25
  • Thank you, but I regret this doesn't answer my question. (Answers a different question, though.)
    – SAH
    Oct 30, 2015 at 17:16

John and Jacks' house mean, the house belongs to John and more than one Jack.

Where Paul's chair, the chair belongs to Paul. If there were two or more Paul's and they each own a chair, you would write; Pauls' chairs.

If John and Jack each own a chair, would you write, John's and Jack's chair. They each own a chair. John's and Jack's chairs, they both own multiple chairs.

Where they jointly own a chair. John's and Jack's chair, or John and Jack's chair. The latter sounds correct, but the apostrophe clearly indicate they jointly own a single chair. Both are correct.

You may also consider ordering the names alphabetically I.e. Jack's and John's chair.

Where we have many Jack's and many John's each owning many chairs, then it's Jacks' and Johns' chairs. "Please can the Jacks' and the Johns' put your chairs away".

Source: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

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