Which apostrophe is correct? (There are multiple dogs.)

One of the dogs' tails

One of the dog's tails

I believe it is the former but I'm not 100% certain. I found absolutely no guidance on this when I searched on the internet.

  • Also see “One of my friends” vs. “one of my friend”, which might be considered a duplicate. Would you say it answers your question? – herisson Oct 13 '17 at 18:04
  • sumelic, you are right. This is a duplicate of that structure. I had no idea even how, grammatically, to ask this question. So this grammar form is considered a "plural possessive with separate possessions?" What are the "separate possessions" though? I don't understand that part. – Siggytron Oct 14 '17 at 20:29
  • Each of the dogs has a single tail, separately, but because there are multiple dogs, the dogs as a group have multiple tails. From a plural noun phrase the dogs, we can form the possessive the dogs', and use this possessive before the plural noun tails to get the dogs' tails = "the tails of the dogs". You are talking about one of those tails, so we put that all together to get "one of the dogs' tails". It's just a normal plural possessive, before a plural noun, and then the "one of..." structure is used before the whole thing to indicate that you are actually only talking about one. – herisson Oct 14 '17 at 20:51

The tail of one of the dogs <--> One of the dogs' tail. This is how I check it.

  • I agree about dogs', but disagree about tail. That wasn't one of the options given by the original poster, and "tails" is certainly fine, as it can be parsed as [one of [the dogs' tails]] = [one of [the tails of [the dogs]]]. – herisson Oct 13 '17 at 19:53
  • I would go with dog tails in that case. One of the dog tails. – MikeJRamsey56 Oct 13 '17 at 20:05
  • Multiple tails imply multiple dogs. – MikeJRamsey56 Oct 13 '17 at 21:07
  • And "one of the" implies that there are multiple dogs. If there were only one dog, we would say "the dog's tail" or "a dog's tail". But if we are talking about one tail that is attached to one of the dogs, we say "one of the dogs' tails", because it is one of multiple tails. We don't say "the tail of the dogs" or "the dog's tails", but we certainly do say "the dogs' tails". – herisson Oct 13 '17 at 21:11

The apostrophe follows the final s if that is the last letter of the owner's name. It is not "Janus's" faces but "Janus' " faces that look both ways. When saying this out loud it seems you have forgotten the possessive when you did not.

Compound nouns in such places get confusing. It is often better to rearrange things; "The tale of one of the dogs is wagging."

But, in requiring an answer to your question: "One of the dog's tails" is the correct usage in the references I can find. Look for compound noun possessive to see for yourself.

  • 1
    One dog doesn't have tails ... – MikeJRamsey56 Oct 13 '17 at 18:38
  • I thought I added that as well but thanks. This is just the writing of what one is speaking. The rules of grammar are bound to run into trouble. – Elliot Oct 17 '17 at 16:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.