Which of these is it supposed to be?

Pope Paul VI's


Pope Paul's VI

I know that the second one sounds funny (and silly), but isn't the number technically not a part of the pope's name?

  • 2
    Please don't vandalize your own post. It's unfair to people who have taken the time to answer. Both your question and the answer attracted upvotes, so some people found this thread useful. Your question was even selected as someone's favorite.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 2:57

1 Answer 1


The English apostrophe-s is not a case inflection the way you have in German or Russian, Latin or Greek. Rather it is a clitic that attaches to the end of the entire noun phrase, not merely to the head noun of that phrase.

That's why you have things like the Queen of England’s hat on one hand or King Henry VIII’s many unfortunate wives on the other. Just to show you how far this can go, some people even find the man at the door’s voice perfectly fine. Some will even talk about my wife and I’s dinner, at least in speech.

This phenomenon is sometimes called the Saxon genitive, despite being neither Saxon nor genitive.

  • 1
    Vatican usage in English tends to avoid using the " 's " to show possession. The Vatican employs phrases such as the "HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II" to show possession. All in all. tchrist's answer is quite correct.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 3:01
  • Is it not "my wife and my dinner"?
    – Unrelated
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 3:21
  • Hmm after sending that I realize the ambiguity
    – Unrelated
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 3:22
  • 2
    It's Saxon (as opposed to Norman, not as opposed Anglian or Mercian or Kentish, of course) and genitive in origin, though. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 7:33

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