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)) Can I say: " Someone I knew' s mom worked there two years ago." I am trying to say that my acquaintance's mother worked in a place. I replace my acquaintance's by someone I knew's, making the phrase "someone I knew's" the attribute in the sentence.

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    A better way to say this is, "The mom of someone I knew worked there two years ago," or, "I knew a person whose mom worked there two years ago." "Someone I knew's mom" sounds very strange to me.
    – SarahT
    Apr 10, 2020 at 5:24
  • I agree, it sounds very strange. Apr 10, 2020 at 6:26
  • Thanks for your answers) Apr 12, 2020 at 3:36

1 Answer 1

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Actually, as strange as it sounds, yes you can! However, there are probably better ways to say it.

's is a clitic that indicates possession by (or some relation to) the noun phrase it attaches to:

Let me tell you about the last book's plot.

Let me tell you about the last book I read's plot.

Let me tell you about the last book I read out of's plot.

Let me tell you about the last book I read out of by Bob Smith's plot.

Let me tell you about the last book I read out of by Bob Smith about dinosaurs' plot.

Let me tell you about the last book I read out of by Bob Smith about dinosaurs that you gave to me's plot.

These are all grammatical but harder and harder to understand. The noun phrase has no upper limit. If you can keep it grammatical, it can be as long as you like. The clitic 's grammatically attaches to any word at the end of a noun phrase: a noun, a verb, a pronoun, even a preposition! However, the clitic belongs semantically to "book", the head of the noun phrase, not necessarily to the last word in the noun phrase. This distance makes it hard to understand even though it's correct.

You can make them easier to understand by changing "X's Y" to "the Y of X":

Let me tell you about the plot of the last book.

Let me tell you about the plot of the last book I read.

Let me tell you about the plot of the last book I read out of.

Let me tell you about the plot of the last book I read out of by Bob Smith.

Let me tell you about the plot of the last book I read out of by Bob Smith about dinosaurs.

Let me tell you about the plot of the last book I read out of by Bob Smith about dinosaurs that you gave to me.

We can do exactly the same thing with your sentence:

Someone I knew's mum worked there two years ago.

The mum of someone I knew worked there two years ago.

Both are correct but the second one is easier to understand.

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  • Oh, I see. Thank you) Apr 12, 2020 at 3:36
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    – CJ Dennis
    Apr 12, 2020 at 4:09
  • ... and they all lived in the house that @CJDennis built!
    – gotube
    Jul 5, 2021 at 4:12

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