Possible Duplicate:
“My wife and I’s seafood collaboration dinner”

What is the correct way of these two sentences?

  1. The queen of England's crown
  2. The queen's of England crown

Strictly linguistically, sentence 2 should be the correct one, since the crown belongs to the queen and not to England but it sounds really awkward to pronounce.

  • 2
    @MετάEd, that question is specifically about the awkwardness of "I's", which people naturally want to replace with the pronoun "my". I don't think it applies here.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 27, 2012 at 21:59
  • @Marthaª Yes, the use of 's with a noun phrase does sometimes create awkwardness, and that is why the other question came up, but the other question is still actually about how to use 's with a noun phrase and as such is an exact duplicate of this one.
    – MetaEd
    Nov 27, 2012 at 22:38
  • 2
    Tolkien would write The queen's crown of England (at least, he wrote Elendil's son of Númenor).
    – TRiG
    Mar 28, 2013 at 17:57

2 Answers 2


It is a common misconception, partly because of bad use of terminology, that the English 's construction is closely equivalent to a genitive in languages like Latin, German etc with overt case marking.

But in reality, 's works quite differently: it can be appended to the whole noun phrase, including adjuncts such as prepositional phrases and relative clauses. This means that the following are in principle perfectly common and grammatical:

(a) [The girl next door]'s dog just died.

(b) [That man I saw yesterday]'s car is parked in my space.

(c) [The queen of England]'s crown is worth its weight in gold.

Of course, if you find that having a lengthy or syntactically complex noun phrase is clumsy to read, you can always rephrase. In reality, a case such as (b), though fairly common in spontaneous usage, would probably be avoided by careful writers. But a phrase such as "The queen of England" is short and simple enough that there's no need to contort the sentence in my opinion.

To avoid confusion, I personally avoid applying the term "genitive" to this construction in English. That way you avoid false expectations if you're used to the more prototypical "genitive" of other languages.

  • 1
    I understand the suggestion to avoid "genitive" ... but "possessive" is even worse.
    – MetaEd
    Nov 27, 2012 at 17:56
  • 1
    In that case, you could always just call it "'s". One doesn't always need to invent fancy verbiage-- sometimes calling a spade a spade is acceptable. Nov 27, 2012 at 18:03
  • 2
    Call it the English possessive (or genitive) clitic. That's the technical term for the spade that Neil describes. As long as you say clitic, it doesn't matter what other stuff you use for the label; just don't say case. Nov 27, 2012 at 19:51
  • Agreed-- this does require you to accept that the category of "clitic" includes elements that can attach (at the surface) to words of arbitrary category, unlike, say the negative "n't", or the system of elements found in Romance languages that are usually categorised as "clitics" and attach to words of a particular category (verbs in this case). I don't know just how widely the term is usually applied, but I guess it sounds OK in principle. Nov 27, 2012 at 23:34
  • 1
    Yes, well, nothing new there. Everything leads to questions like that when facts collide with cherished mythology. Apr 16, 2013 at 14:45

Only (1) is grammatical. The apostrophe comes at the end of an entire noun phrase. The crown belongs to, or is at least worn by, the queen of England.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.