There are examples I took from Murphy's English Grammar in Use, Unit 81B

  • the Carters' house
  • Mr and Mrs Carter's house

I couldn't understand why the latter goes like that and not like "the Mr and Mrs Carter's house"

According to my logic "the" belongs to "house" and not to "Carters"

  • It follows the normal rules for use of the possessive. One could say The friend of Jack, or Jack's friend. If one uses the latter form the article is not used. So it is either the house of Mr & Mrs Carter or Mr & Mrs Carter's house
    – WS2
    Mar 18 '16 at 18:30
  • @WS2 I can't get it. Isn't "The friend of Jack" have a more specific meaning than "Jack's friend"? And why then "the Carters' house" is correct? Mar 18 '16 at 19:33
  • Well, in the Carters' house the definite article is qualifying Carters and not house. I don't really see why the friend of Jack is considered more specific in meaning than Jack, his friend or Jack's friend.
    – WS2
    Mar 18 '16 at 20:29

That's because "the" doesn't belong to "house" after all. You're identifying the family as "the Carters" in the first example, and as "Mr. and Mrs. Carter" in the second.

"My house" "Bob's house" "Bob Smith's house" "The Smiths' house"


In your examples, 'Carter' is a surname. The definite article is not elided on surnames. If a given name or title occurs ('Jack' or 'Mister'), then the article is omitted. (It is redundant since it is expected that you know which 'Carter' is meant.)

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