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Possessive form of “one of [a list]”?

What is correct:

  • One of my friend's father is serving in the Navy.
  • One of my friends' father is serving in the Navy.

Or is it grammatically wrong to have such a possessive construct and the correct form is:

The father of one of my friends is serving in the Navy.


The problem with using the inflected form is that the first four words set up the unreasonable expectation that the friend has more than one father. Whatever the grammaticality, it is for that reason best avoided. Your proposed alternative removes the difficulty.

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    Avoid the problem? I want to see it confronted head-on! – tyjkenn Jun 29 '12 at 6:57

The sentence you wrote in the end, "The father of one of my friends is serving in the Navy", conveys the meaning well.

If you write, "one of my friend's father...", it means you are talking about a particular friend (since you are using friend's, singular). And you are referring to one of his (the friend's) father. Which is the same as saying, "one of the child didn't come" as opposed to the correct usage, "one of the children didn't come". So, you should change father to fathers, if your friend has got more than one father. If not so, and you leave the sentence as it is, it's incorrect.

In, "one of my friends' father...", you are talking about one among many of your friends (since you are using friends', plural). And you are referring to that friend's father. The meaning of this sentence is the same as that of your last sentence.

Note: It's always "one of many"; not "one of a single entity". "One of" has to be followed by a plural.

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  • Have you a reference licensing "one of my friends' father...", Reg? – Edwin Ashworth Mar 10 '17 at 18:03

I would write "My father's friend is serving in the military," though the answers proposed already are correct.

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    Except it's the other way around, it's not a friend of your father, it's the father of your friend. – Mark Beadles Jun 29 '12 at 13:37
  • OK, I wrote that late at night; I meant to say "my friend's father..." basically omit "one of" because it contributes to the ambiguity. – rofls Jun 29 '12 at 19:39

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