Possessive nouns



Which one is correct, and why:

(a) Mary and John's car,


(b) Mary's and John's car?



If Mary and John own or use the car together, your example (a) is appropriate to use in a sentence like this:

Mary and John's new car was stolen from their driveway yesterday.

Conversely, if Mary has one car, and John another, you could use your example (b) in the sentence

Both Mary's and John's cars are in the shop.

Or, you could say more comfortably, referring to their two separate cars:

Mary's car and John's car are both in the shop.

In joint or group possession, add the possessive marker only to the last noun of the unit, as in the following example. The concept of "unit" is important here:

Hilary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea graduated from Stanford University.

In individual possession, add -'s to each noun:

Hilary Rodham Clinton's and Bill Clinton's different lives now keep them apart in different cities.

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