The Grammarphobia Blog

Too many chefs in the kitchen?

Q: If Bob, Jack, Kate, and I (David) all chip in and start a restaurant, does one say, “That’s Bob, Jack, Kate, and my restaurant”? Or ought one say, “That’s Bob’s, Jack’s, Kate’s, and my restaurant”? Maybe we should just chip in for a bar! Or, is it just me?

A: It’s not just you. This is a subject that flummoxes many people, and that’s understandable. We wrote a posting on the subject a while back.

There’s really no good answer here.

In this case, you wouldn’t use more than  one possessive-adjective apostrophe BEFORE the noun.

If a noun is jointly owned, use the apostrophe only with the last owner. That’s why we say, for example, “Mom and Dad’s house,” not “Mom’s and Dad’s house.”

If the first-person problem went away, you could say, “That’s Bob, Jack, and Kate’s restaurant.” But the “my” screws up that construction.

You might refer to yourself in the third person: “That’s Bob, Jack, Kate, and David’s restaurant.”  But that would be a little weird.

Here are several (admittedly clunky) solutions:

“The restaurant is mine, Bob’s, Jack’s, and Kate’s.”

“The restaurant belongs to [or “is owned by”] me, Bob, Jack, and Kate.”

“The restaurant is ours—Bob’s, Jack’s, Kate’s, and mine.”

“We—Bob, Jack, Kate, and I—own the restaurant.”

“The restaurant belongs to us—Bob, Jack, Kate, and me.”

And by the way, if you do use a pronoun to refer to yourself, the order doesn’t matter; “me” or “I” could go anywhere in the list. Just don’t use “I” as an object or “me” as a subject.

Sorry, but we can’t think of a more graceful solution!

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