Is a possessive needed on the word patients in the following mission statement? I feel it clutters the phrase somewhat and need advice.

To meaningfully impact patients' lives by democratizing entertainment, educational tools, and social content through....

  • What is your alternative to including patients' as a possessive? Just using plural patients or omitting the word altogether? The former is grammatically incorrect while the latter may be a good idea depending on what you're trying to say.
    – Sparksbet
    Jul 17, 2018 at 17:19
  • The alternative would be to not have the possessive symbol on the word patients in the mission statement, if that is acceptable. If the possessive is required, then I would include it. Jul 17, 2018 at 17:51
  • It is only recently that impact has become a verb and some readers may dislike its use, because it became a verb in their lifetime. It used to be a noun only. Some readers would think meaningfully impact to be entirely lacking in grace. What's wrong with To improve the lives of patients....? or To improve the quality of life of patients... ? Jul 18, 2018 at 13:11
  • There is also the verb to benefit, as in to benefit patients by ... (another word that is both noun and verb, BTW). Jul 18, 2018 at 13:28

2 Answers 2


To have a meaningful impact on patients' lives by=is more elegant.

It also gets rid of impact as a verb and also that heavy adverb meaningfully. Yes, a possessive is needed, of course.

The lives of patients is most definitely: patients' lives. Plain and simple.

Not sure about democratize here though. Perhaps this is about making those elements more accessible or affordable?

  • Thank you for the input - I believe it he rewrite! It always helps but I have to ease the writer into the change. Jul 17, 2018 at 19:28

You're right; it's awkward.

This looks like a job for a noun adjunct (also known as an attributive noun). As one website explains, English often uses nouns as adjectives to modify other nouns:

You know that an adjective modifies, describing a quality of a noun. For example, you drink a cup of hot tea. The adjective is hot and the noun is tea. What about lemon tea? Lemon is a noun, isn’t it? Why is it modifying tea?

So, with this in mind, we can write:

To meaningfully impact patient lives by democratizing entertainment, educational tools, and social content through

You wouldn't be the first to use this solution; see, for example:

  • Might raise a question or two about the effect on impatient lives Jul 17, 2018 at 17:35
  • @RonaldS - Ha ha! That's true! I'm hoping the words found after the "through..." would clear that up.
    – J.R.
    Jul 17, 2018 at 17:37
  • Thanks for validating the awkward phrase. I think it is funny how you added the educational tools as I had provided that as an option. The content is such a bore, but I hesitate suggesting too many changes with the writer. I will be taking your new rewrite back to gently suggest what the experts recommend. Appreciated! Jul 17, 2018 at 19:31
  • The whole sentence is a frightful example of management-speak. Who is intended to understand it? What does it actually mean? @J.R. is right that 'patient lives' is used and is not wrong - grammatically - but who, apart from a bureaucrat uses such language?
    – JeremyC
    Jul 19, 2018 at 22:05
  • @JeremyC - I agree! However, the question was about the possessive, so that's what I wrote about in my answer. (Personally, I think "To improve patient lives" would read a bit more smoothly than "To meaningfully impact...," but sometimes the powers that be simply must include some key word in a mission statement.)
    – J.R.
    Jul 19, 2018 at 22:10

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