The Grammarphobia Blog

Joint ownership

Q: I ran into a problem when I was writing a friend about a trip my son (Connor) and I (Kevin) took to Rome last spring. If someone else were writing, he’d refer to “Connor and Kevin’s trip.” But what if I want to write about our trip. Is it “Connor’s and my trip” or “Connor and my trip” or something else? I could write “the trip that Connor and I took,” of course, but I’m stubborn and curious.

A: The first thing you have to decide when writing about two people who possess something (or some things) – like a trip to Rome or a bunch of books – is whether they possess the stuff together or individually.

If two people possess the things individually, each name gets an apostrophe plus “s,” as in this example: “The carry-on bag was crammed with Connor’s and Kevin’s books – Connor’s Harry Potters and Kevin’s Lincoln biographies.”

If two people possess something jointly, they’re considered a unit and need only a single apostrophe plus “s” at the end of the twosome: “Connor and Kevin’s trip was a big hit.”

Now, back to your question. Can a pronoun be substituted for the second name when two people possess something jointly? (“Connor and my trip to Rome was a big hit.”)

The short answer is no. Both members of the pair – Connor and Kevin – shared the trip to Rome, but the possessive pronoun “my” is a stand-in for only one member.

You may be stubborn, but if you want to use a pronoun, you’ll have to rewrite the sentence. Here’s one possibility: “My trip with Connor to Rome was a big hit.” Better yet: “Our trip to Rome was a big hit.”

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