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Which of the following four sentences has used the apostrophe in the correct way?

  1. Captain Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp) teeth were glinting in the sunlight.

  2. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)'s teeth were glinting in the sunlight.

  3. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp's) teeth were glinting in the sunlight.

  4. Captain Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp's) teeth were glinting in the sunlight.

I have searched some reputable online dictionaries, but haven't found suitable examples demonstrating this specific usage of apostrophe with brackets.

Thanks.

  • See a similar question and answers to it here (english.stackexchange.com/questions/222298/…) – mahmud koya May 8 '18 at 7:59
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    All 3 constructions look peculiar. Consider Option 4: Captain Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp's) teeth were glinting in the sunlight. One of the "rules" of parentheses (brackets) is that the sentence should read grammatical even if the parenthetic word or phrase is removed. – English Student May 8 '18 at 8:02
  • @mahmudkoya Before asking this question, I looked at the question you mentioned. But in that question, the brackets contain additional information about the noun and that sentence could be re-structured easily. But in the question I have asked, the brackets contain an alternative to the original noun and I couldn't find help from the previously asked question you mentioned. – Soulless Rony May 8 '18 at 8:16
  • @EnglishStudent Your suggestion: Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp's) teeth, seems appealing than the other usages. But is it really necessary to use the apostrophe after the alternative inside the brackets? Does this look bad: Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp) teeth? Thanks. :) – Soulless Rony May 8 '18 at 8:32
  • You are most welcome! "Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp) teeth" reads awkward @Soulless Rony. As does "Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)'s teeth", though it sounds somewhat better. As I said the main "rule" of parentheses (brackets) is that the sentence should read grammatical even if the parenthetic word or phrase is removed, but your sentence should also read grammatical if the reader substitutes the parenthetic noun for the original noun. It's preferable if your noun alternative matches the noun. So it's better if one can read the sentence as "Jack Sparrow's teeth" or "Johnny Depp's teeth." – English Student May 8 '18 at 8:41
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"Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)'s teeth" would be the most natural and logical way to put it, the whole of "Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)" being considered the noun phrase.

That said, such tricky structures better be rephrased:

"Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), his teeth glinting in the sunlight."

HTH.

  • Can you apply an apostrophe to an "entire noun phrase" @Kris? As in, the fastest animal in the world's highest recorded speed is 120kmph? – English Student May 8 '18 at 8:04
  • @EnglishStudent Theoretically, yes, certainly. In practice though, as I already noted, sometimes restructuring will be needed. And no, "(the fastest animal in the world)'s highest recorded speed is 120kmph" suffers from poor readability, not grammatical error. – Kris May 8 '18 at 8:10
  • Thanks for the clarification @Kris. Note that my own example sentence did not include brackets, but I get your point: grammatical but awkward. That's probably why most writers would prefer to rephrase the sentence. – English Student May 8 '18 at 8:12
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Captain Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp's) teeth were glinting in the sunlight makes most sense. So, none of the above.

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