which one is correct? should we use apostrophe s with both nouns preceding?

  • I want to know teachers' and students' favorite movies?

  • I want to know teachers and students' favorite movies?

  • The second one seems to be the correct one.
    – Void
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 6:44
  • 1
    @Void, funny I was leaning towards the first one being correct...
    – E.Aigle
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 6:52
  • This distinction is largely academic, since it can't be heard (and real language is spoken, not written). But logically, it would be perverse to adopt the second orthography here, since that would imply "teachers and students" are being treated as a collective unit (so there's only one set of "favourite movies"). But obviously we expect teachers and students to have different ideas about which movies they like, so the orthography should reflect that by including both Saxon genitive apostrophes. Commented May 28, 2021 at 13:52
  • Like the first two comments, I think native English speakers will be divided on this. The answers below make good arguments for the first one, but I believe both are clear.
    – jeffB
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:33
  • @jeffB: Like I said, we're only really concerned with English writers here. And it's not obvious to me it should matter whether they're native Anglophones or not, since this isn't something one learns in the same way as one "acquires" fluency in one's mother tongue. It's mostly a matter of teachers' priorities and pupil's attention levels, regardless of where the teaching takes place. Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:40

3 Answers 3


You want teachers' and students' favorite movies.

The other version is also grammatical, but could mean, awkwardly, that you want to know both (1) the teachers themselves and (2) the students' favorite movies. In other words "teachers" is not possessive and this breaks the parallelism, changing the parsing of the sentence.

  • 2
    I disagree. The most obvious interpretation of #2 would be the same as in, for example, I like John and Jane's house, where the possessive attaches to "John and Jane" collectively. It would be ridiculous to interpret that as meaning I like John, and I like Jane's house. That's to say, this set of "favourite movies" attaches to all teachers and all students collectively, treated as a single group. Commented May 28, 2021 at 13:56
  • @FumbleFingers That would make sense if the things possessed could reasonably be possessed by the stated collective group of possessors. That's not the case with favorite movies. Everyone has their own favorites, and two groups of people like students and teachers are even more likely to have quite different sets of favorites. That's why I think a parallel interpretation is much more likely. But I agree the correct answer hinges on which way the sentence is parsed.
    – TypeIA
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 15:10
  • While the other interpretation is possible grammatically, it's an unlikely meaning in context.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 15:15

I would say the first one is correct, if you're asking both teachers and students for their opinions. ie. you're asking two groups for their opinions. Plural teacher, plural student. In this case, possessive apostrophes are required.

  • Absolutely! Good start on the site! :) Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:24
  • It's the brevity as much as the "accuracy" that impresses me. I can never resist the temptation to add more words even if they don't add useful and relevant information. Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:33
  • Yeah it's a habit I have as well, I have to proof read my comments like 4 times before I realise that I'm being excessive, and then I usually start over. Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:34
  • Some people will say you should include links to "authoritative sources" backing up whatever you say in Answers here. Luckily, lots of questions that get asked here on ELL have been asked before on English Language & Usage, so if you know how to do a site-specific search it's often easy to find things like the question I linked to just there. Which not only addresses this ELL question - it also includes a link to the relevant section within Wikipedia for the usage. Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:50
  • Hmm, okay, I'll keep that in mind. Thanks for the pointers :) Although personally I would say that nobody has to listen to anything I say and they can feel free to ignore it if they don't think I'm authoritative enough lol Commented May 28, 2021 at 15:06

The first one contains the correct usage of the apostrophe. To show possession of a singular noun, you put the apostrophe before the S, as in "John's car" or "Mom's cellphone." To show possession of a plural noun, you put the S after the apostrophe as in "Two girls’ dresses" or "Four writers’ computers."

  • I think the question is more about the parallel nouns (A's favorite and B's favorite) rather than where to put the apostrophe in a plural noun (A's or As').
    – TypeIA
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 7:22

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