If you played someone in a game of ping pong, and wanted to refer to the game later, you could refer to it as "our game". For instance:

"It was after our game."

But if I were talking to a different person about this, I might find myself inclined to refer to the other person and me specifically, such as:

"It was after John and me's game"

But that doesn't sound right and also doesn't quite make sense. I almost more want to say:

"It was after John and my's game"

But I don't think that's correct either. Despite this, I don't feel like expressing it like this should be completely impossible. Is there any way to convey something about a possession that belongs to two people in this way?

  • "My" is a possessive already. What would possess you to add 's to it??? – Hot Licks Mar 7 '19 at 1:07
  • Hint: Get John out of the picture. – Hot Licks Mar 7 '19 at 1:08

It's interesting. Two rules of English conflict, and there is no way to resolve the problem, short of some major overhaul to the construction.

In "It was after John and me's game", logically, the apostrophe-s goes with the NP "John and me", because that's how we form a possessive determiner in English. However, since 's is not a word, but rather a suffix, it has to be attached to the NP. That is fine for single word NPs, but here, the NP has several words.

Well, you can't attach 's to a phrase, so instead, the best thing to do is attach it to the last word of the phrase, because that last word is already right next to the 's. It's in the right position.

But this doesn't always work, because, as in this example, it may introduce a conflict with a morphological rule of English expressing an irregular possessive form. You can't say "me's"; it has to be "my" instead. That gives us "John and my game". But that's not good, either, because now we've lost the information that the possessive applies to the whole phrase "John and me".

We can try to distribute the possessive mark over the conjoined phrases, giving "John's and my", but for some reason, that doesn't seem right, either. And it's even worse with an "or" construction: "John's or my game", at least in my opinion.

So, what to do?

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  • 1
    I would certainly say 'John's and my game'. – Kate Bunting Mar 7 '19 at 9:20

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