Which is correct:

1) Every detective's wife in every crime movie says the same things.

2) Every detectives' wife in every crime movie says the same things.

3) The wife of every detective in every crime move says the same things.

I think in '2' 'detectives' wife' is supposed to work like 'children's book', but I am not sure it does work at all. Maybe 'detective's wife' in '1' works the same way. Not sure. 

I prefer '3'. '1' makes me feel like the detective is in the real world and the wife is in the movie!

I think that might be just me!

 

Gratefully,

Navi

 

Original Post

2) does not agree in number.  Even though 'every' refers to all of the members in a group, it refers to them each individually and is thus a singular noun.  Detectives', on the other hand, is plural, while 'wife' is, again, singular.  To write 2) correctly you would need to say:

All detectives' wives in every crime move say the same things.

There is no difference between the sentences when considering who is "in the movie".  If you remove the "of every detective" part from 3), you will see it is still the wife that is in the movie:  The wife in every crime move says the same things.  We intuit the presence of the husband from the intuited presence of the wife.  If you didn't allow for the intuition of the presence of both characters in the movie, the sentence would be unnecessarily wordy:

All in-move detectives' in-movie wives in every crime movie say the same things.

 

Last edited by cwm9

Hi navi,

(1) is correct and the best expression.

(2), as cwm9 explained, is ungrammatical when “every” acts as a quantifier for a plural noun. There’s an agreement problem. But you also clearly stated your logical induction from the noun phrase construction “children’s book”, so it should help to say that a children’s book is a book FOR children, while a wife FOR detectives may not make sense, not in my culture at least. So, for example, “Every children’s book has a message.” is fine, but not sentence (2).

(3) is grammatical (apart from the typo “move”) but clumsy and wordy.

The movie-vs-real-world interpretation is not impossible but I doubt that anyone else would make such an interpretation, given the context or the bigger context, our common sense. (I for one don’t know any detectives in real life, not to mention their wives, but can expect to see many thriller hero couples on the silver screen.) In any case, none of your three sentences can fully resolve this ambiguity you raised, can they?

@navi posted:

1) Every detective's wife in every crime movie says the same things.

2) Every detectives' wife in every crime movie says the same things.

3) The wife of every detective in every crime move says the same things.

I think in '2' 'detectives' wife' is supposed to work like 'children's book', but I am not sure it does work at all. Maybe 'detective's wife' in '1' works the same way. Not sure. 

I prefer '3'. '1' makes me feel like the detective is in the real world and the wife is in the movie!

 

Hello, Navi,

I find (1) ambiguous, (2) inaccurate, and (3) ponderous. I prefer (4):

4) Detectives' wives in crime movies always say the same things.

I agree with Kinto that, although the agreement issue in (2) can be overcome by interpreting "detectives' wives" as a descriptive genitive (a possibility that you called our attention to in the first place), it lends itself to the interpretation "every wife for detectives."

While I do think "detectives' wives" can be used as a descriptive genitive for "wives of detectives (in general)"—indeed, (4) can be read as a descriptive genitive or as a normal one (a happy ambiguity)—the use of the plural "wives" seems important. Quirk et al. (1985) has a passage on this matter:

Quote:

"There were ten {farmer's / farmers'} wives at the meeting.

"Notice, in connection with the last example, that the expression farmer's wives does not imply polygamy: if this is a descriptive genitive, it is simply the plural of farmer's wife. The change to the plural genitive farmers' wives may, however, be preferred" (p. 325, Section 5.122).

- Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Longman.

Last edited by David, Moderator

Thank you very much, David,

Your solution is far more elegant than my sentences.

Is the ambiguity you see in '1' the same as the one I see (ie. we don't know if the detective is in the movies or not)?

Gratefully,

Navi

@navi posted:
Is the ambiguity you see in '1' the same as the one I see (ie. we don't know if the detective is in the movies or not)?

I do see the ambiguity you see in (1)  and find it amusing. The ambiguity I had in mind for (1) is a little different and also applies to (3). "Every detective's wife in every crime movie," the subject phrase, can be interpreted as referring either to many different women (one wife per detective per movie) or to one woman with many husbands. Her husbands are every detective in every crime movie.

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