This is from a booklet about caring for elderly people who has dementia:

"requesting flexible working arrangements from your employer and the person with dementia’s employer."

When I read it, "the person with dementia’s employer" is interesting in terms of the usage of apostrophe. Can we use the apostrophe like that or should we rather say "the employer of the person with dementia"?

  • Does this answer your question? How to understand "waving it in the bloke from the Ministry's face" Jan 10, 2023 at 20:01
  • @MarcInManhattan - I think these multi-word-possessors can be ugly and prone to ambiguity, and would tend to rewrite. The mother of my cousin's arm, the owner of the table's leg. Also, some people think that JK Rowling is not the world's greatest writer 'Her sentences contain missing clauses, poor construction, confused tense and point of view, imprecise descriptions, and poor word choice.' Jan 10, 2023 at 21:04
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    @MichaelHarvey I agree; I try to avoid lengthy possessive phrases (though sometimes they can be useful). I was mostly pointing out that this issue has been discussed on ELL before, so I don't really see the point of yet another question covering the same topic. Jan 10, 2023 at 23:51
  • @MarcInManhattan - ironically that blogger I linked to above spoils his message about 'bad writing' by including: 'I’ve always said that J.K. Rowling isn’t that great of a writer from a prose standpoint.' However, I agree with the sentiment. Jan 11, 2023 at 10:17
  • @MarcInManhattan DId you see the 7 downvotes I received for answering that question? I still claim the copyeditors missed it. Rowling's editors should have caught that. I sure was raked over the coals over it. I don't think she is a bad writer. Dickens has lots of weird stuff, too. In some cases, these things can pass in speech, but not in writing. The lady from New York's car. = acceptable in speech. [We generally say: table leg, so owner of the table leg. And "my mother's cousin's arm" is fine.]
    – Lambie
    Jan 11, 2023 at 21:41

2 Answers 2


Yes, it's valid. When the possessor is expressed with more than one word, the apostrophe must be written after the last word. Read this

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    It may be valid, but is it the best way to express the idea? Jan 11, 2023 at 9:28
  • Your question is not pertinent. I am here to learn English, not to learn aesthetic topics.
    – tac
    Jan 12, 2023 at 1:41
  • The page you link to doesn't say anything about using 'apostrophe s' with a descriptive phrase, which is what the question was about. Whether or not something is acceptable English is not just an 'aesthetic topic' - see the other answer and comments. Jan 12, 2023 at 8:41

It is correct. The 's is a clitic, not a case marker, it goes at the end of the noun phrase, rather than being attached to the head noun of the phrase.. However you are right to recognize that there is something rather ugly, and it could easily be rewritten with "of". That preserves the meaning and avoids the ugliness:

The employer of the person with dementia.

  • I don't think the "employer of a/the person with dementia" is ugly at all. I think it is stylistically better.
    – Lambie
    Jan 11, 2023 at 21:44
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    Please re-read. I say that the form with the apostrophe is ugly, and the use of "of" is stylistically better.
    – James K
    Jan 11, 2023 at 21:53
  • OK, I will. It confused me.
    – Lambie
    Jan 11, 2023 at 21:55

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