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Is this the proper way to use two possessive nouns in a row?

I am going over to Lauren's parents' house this evening.

or

The store's manager's niece was quite attractive.

What about three?*

The United States Army's general's wife's dog is on the lamb, somebody stop it.

*Three seems both unrealistic, and in the specific example I used you could make a case for adding a fourth United State's Army's but I think that seems even more unrealistic. Additionally, I would never write this in any sort of setting other than the purpose of knowing what the rules are.

Thanks in advance, I apologize in advance if this is duplicate

  • 1
    While I've never come across a rule saying this is incorrect, it's messy enough to be at least suspected as being such (hence your question and this comment). The use of one or more attributive nouns usually sounds better: 'The United States Army general's wife's dog ...' (and here, I'd say, would be used rather than Army's in almost all cases anyway, though there are doubtless less clear-cut examples). – Edwin Ashworth Aug 23 '16 at 8:46
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Yes, the first sentence is correct. Although I suspect parent's may be intended as plural here, in which case the apostrophe should be moved to be parents'. I suspect this because if the house belonged to one parent, you'd be more likely to write Lauren's mom's/dad's house.

"I am going over to Lauren's parents' house this evening."

The next two sentences can actually be simplified by removing one of the possessives.

"The store manager's niece was quite attractive."

Store manager is a title, so you don't have to use a possessive to describe the store's manager. The same goes for the army general:

"The US Army general's wife's dog is on the lamb. Somebody stop it."

(You also had a comma splice in there, which I've fixed.)

Disregarding the improvements to the second and third examples, the way you have used the multiple possessives is correct. However, it is best practice to try to reduce the number of consecutive possessives in a sentence if you can.

  • Yep, and I don't think I would use any of these examples. The very first one was sent to me in an email, and I thought to myself: "Is this allowed?" In regards to the comma splice, I think there was no need for the content following the splice, I was just struggling to come up with a sentence that made any reasonable sense. I noticed that using multiple possessives in a row like this always relates to things like I stubbed my toe on my aunt's half-brother's girlfriend's dog's brother's bone, and these are always sentences that can be significantly simplified. Thanks. – USER_8675309 Oct 16 '15 at 17:20
  • Yeah, I'd say the only time people use a string of possessives is for effect, like, "My aunt's half-brother's girlfriend's sister went to high school with Brad Pitt." In which case, it is still good to know how to construct them. :) – Jessica Oct 16 '15 at 17:36
  • I changed parent's to parents'. – Doug Warren Oct 16 '15 at 17:42

protected by oerkelens Aug 23 '16 at 8:40

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