I want to know whether the sentence one should love everyone's wife is correct grammatically or not.

I think it's grammatically correct but meaning differs from the sentence

One should love one's wife.

My friend has been arguing with me that you shouldn't use everyone's in the sentence and you have to use only one's.

I said the former sentence means a person should love everyone's wife whereas the latter sentence means a person should love his own wife and both are grammatical.

I can't see anything wrong with the sentence grammatically.

Can you please tell me if I'm right or not?


6 Answers 6


one should love everyone's wife

Well ... it is grammatically correct. However it does not mean what you think it should mean. What this says is that you (or someone) should love everyone else's wives. I'm sure Casanova, Don Juan, or Donald Trump would agree, but most other people would not.

If you want to say that every person should love his own wife, then you could say:

Everyone should love his wife.

The challenge with this is that it is not gender-neutral, and nowadays in many places it's possible for same-sex couples to be married. Unfortunately this leads to some awkward grammar, something like:

Everyone should love their wife

Not as elegant as we might like, but we do the best we can.

Edit (March 15, 2019)

A better gender-neutral version would be:

Everyone should love their spouse.

This takes into account marriages where neither partner considers the other the "wife".

  • 8
    The gender neutral version should be "Everyone should love their spouse", since "wife" is also very exclusive. (You don't need it to be plural, unless you're purposefully trying to include polygamy.)
    – Laurel
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 20:33
  • @Nagendra Andrew is incorrect; saying everyone else's means that you are not saying you should love one's own wife. In fact, saying one should love everyone else's wife implies (not strongly, and dependent on context/tone) that one should not love one's own wife. Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 15:32
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user230
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 15:44
  • 3
    The singular they is perfectly grammatical and is attested at least as early as Shakespeare. Saying "Everyone should love their wives" is perfectly fine.
    – user32753
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 18:18

You are right grammatically both sentences are correct but they differ in meaning.

Suppose there are three persons in the context : a,b,c

With the sentence One should love one's wife, you are saying that a should love his own wife.

But by the other sentence one should love everyone's wife, you are implying that a should love his own wife as well as b's and c's wives.

  • 1
    Both work, especially if his friend is a swinger
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 23:53
  • ^ take it from batman Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 13:37

(In light of the OP's recent edit)

Grammatically speaking, the sentence:

One should love everyone's wife

is perfectly acceptable.

It means it is a good idea if "you" (one) love the wives of everybody. The modal verb should is often used for suggesting ideas, and giving advice.

One could disagree with the assertion, but not with its grammar.

The OP's friend recommends the following solution

One should love one's wife

This is the better route to take, not only morally, but semantically too. On the hand, it is also very formal, and distances the speaker from his or her listeners.

To paraphrase, you could say

You should love your wife

As we know, in English, the determiner you is singular or plural, so this version works too.

Every husband should love his wife


Every married person should love his or her spouse

Or using the singular "they"

Everyone should love their spouse

As suggested in the comments by @laurel


It's perfectly correct grammatically but I don't think it means what you want it to mean. Technically, and this exposes one of the relatively few shortcomings in the English language, to achieve the implied meaning in a grammatically sound way, one could say

Everyone should love his or her wife.

Understandable, though, that this isn't what arises when following the path of least resistance.

  • 3
    @Nagendra - Lots of sentences are "grammatical" but that doesn't mean they mean what you think they mean, or intend them to mean. Purple hedges lift heavy gentlemen by their tails is grammatical, but quite nonsensical. Same with I can smell the color eleven. If you're only interested in grammaticality without regard to meaning, then your question should at least acknowledge that you understand the true meaning of the sentence, and provide that meaning explicitly. Otherwise, you are inviting answers like this one.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 21:29

Coming in with a tl;dr response (apologies if similar to others):

One should love everyone's wife

is a one-to-many relationship. While correct, this means one man should love every existing wife, and one should be very careful not to get caught.

One should love one's wife

is one-to-one. Slightly less risky, yet still a decision not to be made lightly.


I would like to point out one issue that most seem to miss. The phrase "One should love everyone's wife" implies that there is one wife shared by everyone. Compare to the example from Fowler [yeah, sorry]: "Everyone was [or were] blowing their noses." The example itself speaks to the use of "was" vs. "were", but in both cases "nose" is plural. The ambiguity with number used in the verb causes ambiguity in the number for wives.

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