1. Kertesz
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    Kertesz New Member

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    Using apostrophes to show ownership

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Kertesz, Mar 14, 2009.

    Hello,

    In a situation like the following sentence, which is grammatically correct?

    "he was very upset at his sister's, John's, and Natalie's choice of dress"
    "he was very upset at his sister, John, and Natalie's choice of dress"
    "he was very upset at his sisters, Johns, and Natalie's choice of dress"

    I think it's the first one, but it sometimes doesn't sound very good at all when you have a list of names with ownership apostrophes. Is there a better way to do it, assuming it's a situation where you can't just restructure the sentence completely? Also, if there was more than one sister, would you say:

    "he was very upset at his sisters', John's, and Natalie's choice of dress

    And should the oxford comma be used in this situation? To me, "he was very upset at his sister's, John's and Natalie's choice of dress" doesn't sound good at all. But then I'm known to despise any list that doesn't have an oxford comma; I overuse them.

    Help appreciated, thanks.
     
  2. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This one is correct for apostrophe use in the possessive form. If there is only one sister. But makes for a very poor sentence imo.

    I hope this is just for discussion's sake, and not something you're using in a story? Much preferable to say, "he was very upset at their choice of dress" and make sure the reader knows who 'they' are.

    This second sentence indicates that he was upset at his sister, and her name is John. And also with Natalie's choice of dress.

    And this sentence makes so little sense that I can't figure it out.

    Edit: it sounds, to me, like he is upset with more than one sister and their "Johns". "Natalie's" is correct of course.

    As far as Oxford commas - I have no idea.
     
  3. Kertesz
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    Kertesz New Member

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    Thanks, I agree that the first sentence is the only one that sounds like it makes sense. This is just for discussion's sake; I've come across similar situations before and not known what to do, because sometimes it's impossible to restructure the sentence.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the first is the only correct one...

    the oxford comma can used, or not, as the writer wishes, but to me, it works best here, so we won't think john and natalie share the same choice...
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    As people have already said, the first one is correct, but you also asked for another way to word it.

    He was upset with the way his sister, John, and Natalie dressed.

    He didn't like the way his sister, John, or Natalie dressed.

    The way his sister, John, and Nataie dressed upset him.

    Or you could just show it. he looked at the three of them. "Why do you have to dress so lame?"

    He glared at the three of them and thought, why do they have to dress so lame.
     

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