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Hi, Me_IV,

@Me_IV posted:

I think they must be correct. Do you agree?

1 Which one of these three schools' headmaster are you?

One modifies schools.

2 Which one of these three schools' headmasters is you?

(A person is looking at a picture with headmasters and knows that I am one of them but wants to know which one of them is me)

No, I don't agree. First of all, I have heard 'a headmaster' and 'a school headmaster', but not 'a school's headmaster'. The meaning of the first sentence is strange. In the second one, I'd eliminate "school's" and you can use either 'is you' or 'are you'. However, in such a situation, I'd use a completely different question. I'd use: "Where are you in this picture?"

Last edited by ahmed_btm
@ahmed_btm posted:

First of all, I have heard 'a headmaster' and 'a school headmaster', but not 'a school's headmaster'. The meaning of the first sentence is strange.

I agree with almost all of what you have said above, Ahmed, but I do feel compelled to say that I find the phrase "the school's headmaster" acceptable. It simply means "the headmaster of the school." Similarly, we can, in addition to speaking of "school principals," speak of "the principal of a school," or "the school's principal."

@Me_IV posted:

1 Which one of these three schools' headmaster are you?



I strongly recommend revising that sentence, Me_IV. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Which of these three schools do you head?
  • Which of these three schools are you the headmaster of?
  • Of which of these three schools are you the headmaster?
Last edited by David, Moderator

Thank you both. My interest is purely theoretical. I don't want to revise them because I am using them to study syntax. So, the matter of idiomaticity is of no importance to me in this case.

David, do you consider it categorically incorrect or not?

I am this man's son.

I am one of these men's son.

I am one of these schools' head master.

I am one of these three schools' head master.

Which one of these three schools' headmaster are you?

Technically correct. No?

@Me_IV posted:

My interest is purely theoretical. . . . I am using them to study syntax.

OK. From a purely syntactic standpoint, there is nothing wrong with either "I am one of these three schools' headmaster" or "Which one of these three schools' headmaster are you?"

Technically, the possessive morpheme does not attach to "schools" but to the entire partitive phrase "one of these three schools." It would really be clearer to add the apostrophe-s after the "s":

  • I am [[one of these three schools]'s headmaster].
  • [Which [one of these three schools]'s headmaster] are you?

Those sentences, with the additional "s," sound fine to me, and they are syntactically sound. However, they do not follow typographical/punctuational conventions and therefore cannot be advocated in the real world.

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