Today’s post explores compound possessives with pronouns. For example, is Windy the cairn terrier Doug and my dog, Doug’s and my dog, or Doug and I’s dog?
Before we answer this intriguing question of canine custody, we’ll define compound possessives and then look at how to write them in a sentence with pronouns.
What Are Compound Possessives?
Compound possessives, also called joint possessives, occur when two or more nouns (usually names) share ownership of something.1 Compound possessives can also include one or more pronouns instead of nouns.
Compound Possessive: Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle’s cat tree is in the living room. (Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle share one cat tree.)
Compound Possessive with a Pronoun: John’s and her car is in the driveway. (John and a woman, indicated by the pronoun her, share one car.)
Important Reminder: When using a nonpersonal pronoun (e.g., he, his, she, her, they, their, it), ensure that the pronoun is identified earlier in the content. For example: “Do you know where Kate is? No, but John’s and her car is in the driveway.”
How to Write Compound Possessives with Pronouns
Possession is usually indicated by attaching an apostrophe s to a noun. However, only contracted pronouns (e.g., it’s for it is) end with an apostrophe s.
To show pronoun ownership, we rely on the possessive forms, such as my, mine, his, her, hers, their, theirs, our, ours, and its.
So, if we return to the question of Windy the Cairn terrier’s ownership, we can eliminate Doug and I’s dog as a possible option because I isn’t a possessive pronoun.
Now we are left with Doug and my dog versus Doug’s and my dog.
When combining nouns and pronouns in compound possession, attach an apostrophe s to each noun.2 In this case, the noun is the name Doug.
Therefore, the correct format is Doug’s and my dog.
By attaching an apostrophe s to each noun, we avoid awkward sentences like “Doug and my dog Windy rolled in the grass,” which could mistakenly be interpreted as “Doug, and a dog named Windy that I own independently, both rolled in the grass.”
Of course, we all know that no one actually owns a dog—dogs own us!
Further Reading: You and I versus You and Me: Can’t We All Just Get Along?
- “Possessives and Attributives,” Style Q&A, The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed October 21, 2018, http://bit.ly/2OFsUEq.
- William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual, 11th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 643.