Which way is guys written in this sentence: "What are your guys favorite cars"? Should the word guys be written as guys, guy's, or guys' in this sentence?

  • Odd. "Your guys" sounds like you have some guys, as opposed to, for example, my guys. – curious-proofreader Sep 23 '16 at 4:28
  • @curious-proofreader Yes: think of gang leaders (who might not be interested in discussing cars, but they might talk of "your guys" and "my guys"). – Andrew Leach Sep 23 '16 at 8:12
  • I can't see how a guy wire could have such a preference. – Hot Licks Mar 28 at 12:22

The use of the apostrophe defines ownership of one or more people. So, if there is only one "guy" involved, the phrase would be "your guy's favorite cars." If, however, there is more than one "guy" involved, the phrase would be "your guys' favorite cars."

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My feeling is that "What are your guys favorite cars" is not standard English, no matter how it is punctuated, so I don't think there is, strictly speaking, a "correct" way to punctuate it. See What is the possessive of "you guys"?

In standard English, there is no clear distinction between plural and singular second-person pronouns. The various inflections of "you" are used to express both meanings. So "What are your favorite cars?" would suffice to express this idea.

In various regional varieties of English, plural second-person pronouns have developed, such as y'all, yinz, youse, you guys, you lot. But these are not standard formal English, and so have no standard, formalized inflections.

"You guys" could be interpreted in standard English as simply an appositive construction (as in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution's "We the people"), rather than a special pronoun of its own, but the issue is that this kind of appositive construction has no standard possessive form (or at any rate, certainly not one where the first element is marked as possessive).

  • "Our the people's nation" and "our the people's nation" are I think clearly ungrammatical (see the section "Possessives with Appositive Forms" from the Capital Community College Foundation's Guide to Grammar and Writing, which says "When a possessive noun is followed by an appositive, a word that renames or explains that noun, the apostrophe +s is added to the appositive, not to the noun")

  • "us the people's nation" sounds barely any better

  • "we the people's nation" sounds somewhat less awful to me than the previous options, but uses a subject-case pronoun, "we", in a context where as far as I can tell it would not be justified according to principles of traditional grammar. (see “My wife and I's seafood collaboration dinner” for a somewhat analogous case)

My recommendation

Even though I said I don't think any of the options you list result in a sentence that conforms to standard English, I think there are better and worse choices. Since we're starting from "you guys", where "guys" is plural, I see no reason to write "your guy's", which looks like it involves the singular word "guy".

So I would say to go with your guys or your guys'. Some might prefer the first because the second seems to include too many possessive markers; some might prefer the second, because it includes a (written) possessive marker at the end of the phrase, which is the expected location for possessive marking in English.

protected by Mari-Lou A Mar 28 at 11:40

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