I'm wondering, what would be the grammatically correct form when you refer to the death of a close relative/important person/anyone? I have found these two cases on Google:

  • The death of my wife.
  • My wife's death.

Now, I doubt which of the two cases would be correct (as an English native speaker) when you refer to the death of a close relative.


These are some examples of what I was asking:

guardian 1



guardian 2



I read multiple articles in British media using: "The Death of the Queen." Or something similar. Similarly, I read in American mass media that they always said the Queen's Death. It creates noise (at least for me) based on the two answers since it doesn't seem to be standard which one is the "correct" one.


I removed the double possessives section because I read it incorrectly.

  • This has absolutely zero to do with BrE versus AmE. It is about formality. The Death of the Queen works as a formal title or expression. The "Queen's death" would be used in an article or a title that goes beyond just announcing her death: The Queen's Death Give Rise to New Attitude. [bad example, but it makes my point]
    – Lambie
    Sep 18, 2022 at 15:37
  • Hi @Lambie, I never said it was related to BrE and AmE. I just noticed this pattern. What I noticed is that you can use both cases, and they have the same meaning, or did I misunderstand it? This is why I tend to feel confused in this case and brought up this question since I can see that even native speakers use both cases indistinctly. I cannot find any article that tells you, you must use this rule for X possessive cases, this rule for Y possessive cases, and/or when it's formal you must use the Z rule (or it's recommended). Sep 19, 2022 at 4:37

2 Answers 2


Either expression ("the death of my wife" or "my wife's death") is acceptable. Here is an ngram showing that both have been used roughly equally in the Google Books corpus from 1980 to 2019:

enter image description here

However, the double possessive form ("the death of my wife's") is incorrect in this case. As your M-W link states, that construction is used to indicate possession (not association). Let's consider M-W's examples:

  • "this picture of my friend's" (this picture belongs to my friend)
  • "that mustache of Harry's" (that mustache belongs to Harry)
  • "a dream of Mabel's" (a dream belongs to Mabel)

However, the death does not "belong" to my wife. Your example uses the genitive of association, so the double possessive form isn't allowed.

  • @Lambie Terminology can vary, but I'm using the term in the same way that M-W does in the linked article. Sep 7, 2022 at 17:05

My wife's death. The second word takes the apostrophe s.

You can use any word that shows the person is your relative. It can even be someone's name. The fact the person is your relative is not relevant for a possessive.

My uncle's death
Their grandmother's death
Our father's death
His cousin's death

Double possessive (not relevant per se to the question asked):
The man's wife's death [for example]
The dog's owner's car [a little awkward, we would tend to use: the car of dog's owner]

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