My gf (american) claims it's "somebody else's" while I tend to think "somebody's else" is right. What do you think?

  • 1
    Definitely somebody else's. (Unless you actually are talking about ownership of a word. Perhaps you have a store called "Everything Else" and when they brought the new sign, the fonts didn't match and you told the delivery guy, "That's somebody's else, but it's not mine." That would make it somebody else's else. – Jim Jan 2 '14 at 0:47

In modern English, genitive 's is a clitic that attaches to an entire noun phrase, as in example 1 below.
It doesn't attach to an individual noun, as in example 2:

 1. [ The King of England ] 's pants
 2. *The King's of England pants    (ungrammatical)

The postmodifier else can attach to an indefinite pronoun like somebody, as in example 3 below.
It can't attach to a genitive noun phrase like somebody's, as in example 4:

 3. [ somebody else ]
 4. *[ somebody ] 's else    (ungrammatical)

Since somebody else is a complete noun phrase, 's can attach to it:

 5. [ somebody else ] 's

This is the correct choice.


"Somebody else" is a pronoun, and the possessive is formed by adding 's to the end of the pronoun: "somebody else's"

Google Books Ngram Viewer backs this up...

Google Books Ngram Viewer Results

Summary of the results from the year 2000:

  • "somebody else's": 4.9 x 10-6
  • "somebody's else": 4.5 x 10-8

Furthermore, some of the matches for "somebody's else" don't really count... At least one match comes from a book written in 1894 with the following passage:

Would you say, Somebody else's or somebody's else?


  • My mentions can't mess up the results since both options are of an equal number :) – Trident D'Gao Jan 2 '14 at 1:26
  • @bonomo Sorry, I updated my post to be more clear. Somebody wrote a book in 1894 where part of the book is about the question "Would you say, 'somebody else's' or 'somebody's else'?" :-) – godel9 Jan 2 '14 at 1:36
  • I'm surprised the ratio is only 100 to 1. Of course, as you imply, a lot of that 1 is people discussing grammar :-) – snailcar Jan 2 '14 at 3:10

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