To form possessive constructions with adjectives and pronouns, the rules are unambiguous:
e.g. "My (adj) daughter" and "daughter of mine (possessive pronoun)" are both standard usage. However, when the "owner" happens to be a proper noun, usage gets slightly murkier. The use of an apostrophe in the case of "John's daughter" is standard English; however, in the periphrastic case, I have encountered both in common speech and in writing something like, "daughter of John" and "daughter of John's," the latter in which both an apostrophe and the preposition "of" are used. What is the rule here?

1 Answer 1


The double possessive, or double genitive, dates back to Chaucer's time, and mostly gets used without being remarked upon by native speakers. If you want a 'rule' then let that be that the double possessive is only used for people and animals, and you use 'of'. You can say a daughter of John's, but never a leg of the table's. The usage is not restricted to proper nouns: you can say a friend of my sister's or a servant of the king's.

Sometimes a double possessive is useful to avoid abiguity - consider a dream of Mary and a dream of Mary's.

You will find pedants and stylists who object to the double possessive, but, as I wrote above, it has been present in English since the 14th century, and does not give native speakers any trouble.

Double possessives demonstrate the power of ‘of’

A guide to double possessives

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