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I wanted to write about a farmer who has children with very strange toys. Thus, I wrote:

The farmer's children's toys were quite strange.

Would that be correct? I could not find examples to whether this usage was correct or not so I assumed it could be, albeit uncommon.

If I understand correctly, an equivalent phrase should be:

The toys of the farmer's children were quite strange.

  • It's grammatical either way, but after a few catenations, it becomes quite a choo-choo train. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 13 '16 at 17:48
  • It's actually not that uncommon to see this kind of thing in English, but it can get confusing. I would never put more than two possessives in a row like this. – Era Apr 13 '16 at 18:10
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    I would do it rarely. For example, "your children, and your children's children, and your children's children's children" is a sometimes-seen phrase. – BobRodes Apr 13 '16 at 19:26
  • Technically yes, but avoid it whenever possible. It's weak and ambiguous writing, and just sounds awkward written on paper in general. – user3932000 Apr 14 '16 at 4:27
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Both are correct, but have different strengths. The first is more conversational and sounds somewhat more natural, but it's ambiguous. The second phrase is clear, but sounds a little dry.

Specifically, the phrase "Farmer's children's toys" can be interpreted 2 ways. The first is "the farmer's children's toys", as in the toys of the farmer's children. The second is "the farmer's children's toys", as in children's toys owned by the farmer.

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Technically yes, but avoid it whenever possible. It's weak and ambiguous writing, and just sounds awkward written on paper in general.

In a situation like this, there's always a better way to write the sentence:

The farmer's children had quite strange toys.

His children's toys were quite strange. (if it's obvious that "he" refers to the farmer)

Their toys were quite strange. (same as above, except with "they" and the children)

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