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In this sentence, “I would like to apply for the post of adults’ English teacher,” do you say “adults’ English teacher” or “adult’s English teacher”? If this sentence is totally wrong, could you paraphrase the sentence in a way that the meaning remains? Thanks in advance.

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Weather Vane, Cascabel, Benjamin Harman, Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 6 at 23:14

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    You can side-step the awkwardness by writing "I teach English to adults." Of course if you say it, there is no apostrophe evident. – Weather Vane Sep 6 at 18:16
  • It would be a bit crass to say I teach English to foreigners, so I'd suggest I teach English in adult education. But I can't see any obvious and simple way of distinguishing between whether you mean teaching native Anglophones how to read and write (because for some reason they didn't learn these basic skills at school, which would often imply some kind of "special needs"), or because they don't actually know enough English (particularly, spoken English) to get by. – FumbleFingers Sep 6 at 18:28
  • You probably want an answer "A (or B) is the correct way to write this." But neither is ungrammatical, and while the plural possessive probably shades it on the grounds of logic, both look ungainly (and that can be as real a factor as ungrammaticality). There is even, as association rather than possession is indicated, quite a strong argument for the plural-form attributive usage (“I am an adults English teacher"), in line with 'X Working Mens Club'; 'Y Writers Guild' (qv) and the like. But Weather Vane and FF give sound advice. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 6 at 18:38
  • Thank you all. Yes, I can change the order in some way, but actually I wanna write this sentence: “I would like to apply for the post of adults’ English teacher.” Any suggestions for paraphrasing? – Elham Sep 6 at 18:57
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    @vectory excuse me but you seem to be talking nonsense. I wrote "menswear shop" which has absolutely no ambiguity or confusion. It sells men's clothing, which anyone can buy there. – Weather Vane Sep 6 at 20:42

Use neither. On the one hand, this is the literal difference between the two:

I am an adult's English teacher

suggests that you are a teacher to one adult;

I am an adults' English teacher

suggests that you teach multiple adults.

On the other hand, these sentences are both awkward. Possessives tend to work less well when long phrases are involved. In this case, it can become less clear what the possessive is determining: is the subject you teach "adult('s/s') English" or "English"? There are a few strategies for avoiding the extra awkwardness of the possessive:

  1. Use a noun adjunct. "I am an adult English teacher." It still has ambiguity, namely whether you are an adult who teaches English or whether you teach English to adults, but my top Google search results turn up job ads for the latter. That collocation avoids the possessive entirely.

  2. Verb the noun. Make teacher into teach and explain what you do after that. "I teach English to adult learners" or "I teach English to adults" would explain what you do. A couple of my first search results link to TEFL teachers who describe themselves in exactly this way.

  3. Distinguish your audience in a prepositional phrase. "I am an English teacher for adult learners" or "I am an English teacher for adults." If it is important you say teacher, this breaks up the information in a way that makes adults more proximal to teacher than English, and uses for to disambiguate the purpose.

  • everybody seems to recommend for,and in German I'd agree, "für", but why not to, "I'm a ... to you", "I am teaching English to adults" ... oh, I see, "* I'm an English to adults teacher" (not idiomatic at all), but "For adults I am teaching English". This separates "English" and "adults" as far as possible. – vectory Sep 6 at 19:32
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    If someone is applying for a post, that post must have been advertised. What does the advertisement call it? – Kate Bunting Sep 7 at 7:52
  • The advertisement is not in English. – Elham Sep 7 at 10:55

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