My Girlfriend’s Parents’ Dogs
Here’s a tricky one: In the possessive form, when do you put the apostrophe before the “s,” when do you put it after the “s,” and when do you not put it anywhere? (Okay, the third one is a trick question. You always need an apostrophe to show the possessive form.)
The apostrophe comes before the “s” if the possessor to which you are referring is singular. Thus, “my girlfriend’s parents’ dogs” refers to the two or more dogs belonging to the two or more parents of my one girlfriend. Had I said “my girlfriends’ parent’s dogs,” I would of course be referring to the two or more dogs belonging to the singular parent of my multiple girlfriends, who must in this case be sisters (sweet(!), but likely very tricky to pull off) and the daughters of a single parent.
The precise numerical status of the possession of which the possessor is in possession does not matter in the least. Put
as if I were writing like a normal person speaking English more simply, the fact that the “dogs” in this case are more than one doesn’t matter. If I were referring only to one dog, “girlfriend’s” and “parents'” and their associated apostrophe positioning would stay exactly the same. To give a few more examples,
Holly’s computer refers to the one computer of Holly
Holly’s computers refers to the two or more computers of Holly
The apostrophe here stays exactly the same because Holly is still just one person.
my cat’s toy refers to the one toy belonging to my one cat
my cat’s toys refers to the two or more toys belonging to my one cat
my cats’ toy refers to the one toy that my two or more cats share
my cats’ toys refers to the two or more toys that my two or more cats share
Notice here that number of toys belonging to my cat(s) doesn’t affect where the apostrophe is placed; only the number of cats I have, whether it’s one or more than one, affects the position of the apostrophe.
If I see one more ad for “Pats Pizza” or “Shoe’s On Sale!” or “Come See Our Price’s!” I think I’m gonna hurl.
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