The Grammarphobia Blog

Possessive mothers-in-law

Q: I reviewed your blog item on forming the plurals of compound words like “mother-in-law.” Is there a way to form a plural possessive of such words?

A: Some things are better avoided. I can’t imagine what a plural possessive of “mother-in-law” would look like in an actual sentence. Maybe like the ones in these examples:

YIKES: We’re doing a compilation of mothers-in-law’s recipes.

YIKES: We’re doing a compilation of mothers’-in-law recipes.

YIKES: We’re doing a compilation of mothers’-in-law’s recipes.

I’d avoid the problem by rewriting the sentence. For example:

BETTER: We’re doing a compilation of recipes by mothers-in-law.

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