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In this sentence:

Used by companies to manage their teams' time.

Is that the correct possessive usage on teams?

Does it matter if a company has more than one team or not? (I assume it does not.)

I understand the usage with plurals and possessives in isolation (and have reviewed those examples). Most people I've asked have said it can be either but I still feel like team's in this case is wrong. The question is if "companies", plural, means that "teams" is made plural (even if each company only had one team). E.g., it seems more clear if you change it to something like "used by people to manage their dogs' time". I'm not sure if it's because "team" is a collective noun that causes some doubt.

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  • Possible duplicate of "Guys", "guy’s", or "guys’" (guys’)
    – Bread
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 12:43
  • See expanded explanation. Links to usage examples on isolated words didn't help me definitively answer this question and did not seem like duplicates.
    – ldg
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 19:06
  • Related: Should a noun after the determiner their take in the form of singular or of plural?, “They're using a cell phone” vs. “They're using cell phones”. The concept of a "distributive singular" noun phrase mentioned in the answer to the second question is relevant. I have the impression that in many contexts, the distributive singular sounds like an error in number agreement to some people, but some other people find it acceptable, ...
    – herisson
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 19:56
  • ...which might help explain why some of the people you talked to thought "their team's time" looked OK. (As you mention in your last paragraph, using "their team" as a distributive singular would only make sense if each company is assumed to have one team.)
    – herisson
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 20:00

2 Answers 2

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I would argue that if it is one team you are speaking of, the correct form is "team's time"

If you are referring to multiple teams, then "teams' time"

The word itself is in singular form, not its plural form (that would be "teams"), even though a team usually is comprised of multiple individuals.

Other similar examples: "Congress's time" "the committee's time" etc...

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I think it is correct although there is something odd about the sentence.

If I have several teams and I wish to manage their time, then I can certainly say: I wish to manage my teams' time. The apostrophe is correctly placed after 's' because teams is a plural.

What is odd, but not actually wrong is the double possessive: their followed by another possessive. It could be worse: Used to manage the companies' teams' time.

If I were writing it I would reword the sentence to avoid a double possessive, but that is a matter of taste rather than grammar: "Companies use it to manage the time of their teams."

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  • There's nothing wrong with a chain of possessives. What's strange about "My uncle is my mother's brother"? Or "I work for my sister's boyfriend's company"? Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 13:57
  • As I said, it is a matter of taste. You are entitled to your taste; I am entitled to mine.
    – JeremyC
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 13:58

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