Larry and Tom own a hardware store. To me there are two possible ways to use the possessive form:

Larry and Tom's hardware store.


Larry's and Tom's hardware store.

The first speaks and reads better - and I think is correct due to elision. (?)

Is the second grammatically correct ? It just sounds too clunky to me.

I'm a native speaker and write a lot, but this one's bugged me for years. It's probably a dupe question (sorry), but I can't find the answer here or in style books.


Yup. Larry and Tom is a conjunct noun phrase, which makes Larry and Tom’s grammatically proper; and if the store belongs to Larry and Tom jointly it cannot be regarded as belonging entirely to either separately, which makes Larry and Tom’s semantically (and probably legally) proper as well.

The only problem is typographical: the ’s looks like it’s attached only to Tom. Think of it as Larry-and-Tom’s and it won’t bother you any more.

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  • " Think of it as Larry-and-Tom’s and it won’t bother you any more. " Ahh +2 StoneyB, I'd award you a Bothers-Remover badge had we one to give ! – Howard Pautz Sep 11 '13 at 20:23
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    Or for you IT people, "(Larry and Tom)'s". :-) – Jay Sep 11 '13 at 20:27

These sentences mean different things:

If Larry and Tom jointly own a hardware store then it's the first.

If Larry owns a hardware store and Tom also owns a hardware store, then its the second.

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  • If it were talking about two hardware stores, would the store need to be plural stores? – katatahito Jul 19 '19 at 4:53

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