"This is a room full of my wife and I's very very good friends."

-- Russell Crowe as Nicholas Hostetler, Mayor of New York City in Broken City (2013)


The joint possessive "my wife and I's" sounds incorrect to me, but it also sounds rather tempting and difficult to fix! Because the phrase follows "of," it would seem that "I" (subjective case) should be changed to "me" (objective case). But, then, "my wife and I's" could be replaced by "our," and it is difficult for me to say whether the case of "our" is subjective or objective (it seems to me to be neither) — not to mention, "my wife and me's" sounds even worse to me than "my wife and I's"!

Which of the following is (are) correct? My vote is for (f) or (g). Phrases (a)–(c) seem incorrect to me, and (d) and (e) seem to express a different meaning altogether!
a) a room full of my wife and I's friends
b) a room full of I and my wife's friends
c) a room full of my wife and me's friends
d) a room full of me and my wife's friends
e) a room full of my wife and my friends
f) a room full of my and my wife's friends
g) a room full of my wife's and my friends
Thank you. Smile
Original Post
a) a room full of my wife and I's friends (kind of poetic)
b) a room full of I and my wife's friends ( wrong
c) a room full of my wife and me's friends ( wrong)
d) a room full of me and my wife's friends ( wrong)
e) a room full of my wife and my friends ( wrong)
f) a room full of my and my wife's friends ( OK)
g) a room full of my wife's and my friends ( OK)

here are my suggestions:


a) a room full of my wife’s friends and mine.

b) a room full of mine and my wife's friends.

c) a room filled with friends of mine and my wife’s.
Last edited by grammarcrazed
Thank you, Grammarcrazed.

Your choice to use the "absolute possessive" mine is a smart one.
quote:
here are my suggestions:

a) a room full of my wife’s friends and mine.
b) a room full of mine and my wife's friends.
c) a room filled with friends of mine and my wife’s.
I like the way each of those sound. Your phrases (a) and (c) are certainly correct. Your (b) is a bit unusual, in that mine and other absolute possessives (yours, theirs, hers) are generally only used after the object of possession has been defined (i.e., stated).

In your (b), the reader does not know that "mine" refers to "my friends" when he reads "mine"; he learns that later on, after he has read "and my wife's friends." But I think that could be considered a legitimate and harmless form of cataphoric reference.

My only real concern about your (a), (b), and (c) is whether they express separate or joint possession, or whether they are ambiguous. Despite the lack of warmth (to put it mildly) between Mayor Hostetler and his wife, I believe that he is trying to express joint possession of friends in his sentence — to please his constituency!

He does not want to say that the room is full of two separate sets of friends: his friends and his wife's friends (friends of hers and friends of mine). Rather, he wants to say that the room is full of one set of friends: friends possessed by him and his wife together (friends of ours).

I get the sense of joint possession from my (f) and (g), but I'm not sure that I get the same sense from your (a), (b), and (c). At the same time, I do think that your (a), (b), and (c) sound better than my (f) and (g)! I wonder if others have a take on this. Thanks again for your comments, Grammarcrazed.
Here is an example that I came across, a long time ago, in the novel “The Bothers K” by David James Duncan: Page 5

“ I am alone on the floor of mine and Irwin’s room now,…….
Hi Günter,

Grammar10 has given you some good input. However, I'd like to comment further about a few.
quote:
d) a room full of me and my wife's friends ( wrong)
I agree that this is formally incorrect. However, colloquially/informally, this format is quite commonly used.

quote:
b) a room full of mine and my wife's friends.
This is NOT formally correct. Because of the coordinating conjunction 'and', that means 'mine friends and my wife's friends'. It is fine to say 'my wife's friends', it is not OK to say 'mine friends' (even though it IS possible to say 'friends of mine').
Thank you, Grammarcrazed and Amy.
quote:
quote:
d) a room full of me and my wife's friends ( wrong)

I agree that this is formally incorrect. However, colloquially/informally, this format is quite commonly used.
Yes. In (d), however, I think that format technically does NOT indicate that my wife's friends are friends of mine.
quote:
quote:
b) a room full of mine and my wife's friends.

This is NOT formally correct. Because of the coordinating conjunction 'and', that means 'mine friends and my wife's friends'. It is fine to say 'my wife's friends', it is not OK to say 'mine friends' (even though it IS possible to say 'friends of mine').
Excellent demonstration, Amy. I realized after writing my reply to Grammarcrazed that I had actually seen H. W. Fowler reject that construction in Modern English Usage, though he does acknowledge it to be tempting. He writes, "There is no doubt a natural temptation to substitute the wrong word ; the simple possessive seems to pine at separation from its property."

Does anybody have any thoughts on the issue of separate versus joint possession? Of the sentences we have on the table, which expresses the spliced version of "a room full of friends of ours"?
    f) a room full of my and my wife's friends
    g) a room full of my wife's and my friends

    a-G10) a room full of my wife's friends and mine.
    c-G10) a room filled with friends of mine and my wife's
How about these:

a room full of my wife’s friends and those of mine.


It will be an alliance between two great powers, , those of your world and those of mine.
quote:
a room full of my wife’s friends and those of mine.
Thanks again, Grammarcrazed. I definitely think that phrase expresses separate possession of friends: a room full of her friends and my friends.

For joint possession, what do we think of this one? I'm taking a new approach this time. This is the best spliced version of "a room full of our friends" / "a room full of friends of ours" that I can come up with without using an extra word like "joint":
  • a room full of friends of me and my wife's.
"This is a room full of very very good friends of me and my wife's."

If Russell Crowe had said that instead, would audiences have noticed it in a negative way, or mightn't the phrase have slipped into their ears as a piece of indisputably good English? Smile
I see what you're saying, Günter. A phrase like
    friends of me and my wife's
seems to be related to a phrase like
    John and Bill's dogs
which seems to be convertible to
    dogs of John and Bill's
each phrase expressing joint possession. Having now investigated the matter, I see that that is not necessarily the case. Quirk et al. say that a phrase like
    John and Mary's children (13.72)
does indeed express joint possession. However, they also say that it is "characteristic of informal speech," and that its formal equivalent is the following:
    the children of John and Mary (ibid.)
where we find, notably, the -s ending absent. If we did away with the -s ending, we would be obliged to follow the so-called polite order of pronouns. Our phrase would become:
    (?) friends of my wife and me
which would not only sound strange but would have freakish consequences. For consider: Which of these sounds better?
    That's my wife and I's car.
    (?) That's the car of my wife and me.
The choice seems pretty clear! Happily, there does seem to be a way of justifying the latter construction. First, Quirk et al. do mention the construction directly, in a footnote on page 965. It seems to be a mixed bag. Sometimes it's acceptable, and sometimes it isn't. Here are their examples. Only the first is considered acceptable by them:
    you and your husband's bank account
    (?) they and their friends' surprise
    (?) John and her book
It seems to me that "my wife and I's friends" is a legitimate use of the construction. If you think about it, I'm sure you'll realize that you've used that sort of construction many times and do indeed find it rather natural, despite your grammatical scruples.

One last point: It is reasonable to say that "my wife and I's friends" does not actually contain an instance of I's, which seems to have been freaking you out. The phrase may instead be analyzed as a "group genitive," like
    the teacher of music's room (17.119)
    a man of distinction's influence (ibid.)
    an hour and a half's discussion (ibid.)
    a week or so's sunshine (ibid)
where the -s ending inflects, not the word to which it is attached, but the entire phrase to which it is attached. So, be a grammatical gladiator! Go forth and, like Russell Crowe, use "my wife and I's" — if, that is, you be married.
What do you mean by "friends of me"? Maybe it was in common use in the 19th century but there is no user of the English language today who would write or talk like that.I mean no
well-educated native speaker would use the English language like that.
Last edited by grammarcrazed
You are sort of correct, Grammarcrazed, in that nobody in today's world uses "friends of me" as an isolated phrase. However, nobody here has said that "friends of me" can or should be used as an isolated phrase. Please observe the emboldened question mark next to "friends of my wife and me" in the above post. It marks the phrase as questionable.

As you know, "me" is an objective-case pronoun, like "him," "her," etc. The COCA corpus shows two results for "friends of him" and two results for "friend of him." Here's an example of the former:
  • "He also knows that he made a big mistake and I think that he needs people like me not to be out criticizing him but people like me that are friends of him to support him during this time of need."
That sentence was spoken, in 1998, by James Carville, who, at the time, was serving as an adviser to Bill Clinton. James Carville is a native speaker and a Doctor of Jurisprudence. This places him in the "well-educated native speaker" category.

Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik are the authors of A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Longman, 1985). They are among the most highly educated people ever to write about the English language.

In their co-authored work, examples from which are quoted above, they describe the sentence She is the daughter of him, not as grammatically incorrect, but as ODD, citing the general PREFERENCE for She is his daughter and (if the man has more than one daughter) She is a daughter of his (p. 323).

In my last post (the post before David's), I did not suggest the phrase "friends of me." What I suggested was the phrase "friends of me and my wife's." The addition of "and my wife's" considerably defuses the oddity of "friends of me" as an isolated phrase.

Why did I suggest "friends of me and my wife's" rather than "friends of mine and my wife's"? Because the latter phrase expresses separate possession: "friends of mine and friends of my wife's." I was striving to express joint possession.

My idea was that, in the phrase "friends of me and my wife's," the apostrophe-s inflects "me and my wife" as a unit, just as in the phrase "Jack and Jill's friends" the apostrophe-s inflects "Jack and Jill" rather than just "Jill."

The phrase "Jack and Jill's friends" refers to joint friends of Jack and Jill, whereas "Jack's and Jill's friends" need not refer to joint friends; it may also refer to separately possessed friends -- in four possible ways (!), according to Quirk et al. (Section 13.72).

However, as David indicates above, "Jack and Jill's friends" converts to "friends of Jack and Jill" rather than to "friends of Jack and Jill's." That is why, in the course of his argument, he temporarily changed "friends of me and my wife's" to "friends of my wife and me." But that was just in passing. He mentioned it precisely in order that he might dismiss it!

The upshot of David's post is that he thinks Russell Crowe's phrase is perfectly fine — and I, for one, agree with him. Wink

Make sense?
Last edited by gunter
The only time you can and should step outside the norm of the English language is when you want to be creative or poetic and even then you should have a good reason for committing such a violation.
Based on what David quoted from the brilliant grammar book to which you also made a reference in your last posting and of which I, too, happen to have a copy (I have all of their books, actually), you should at least have said “friends of me and my wife” and not “friends of me and my wife’s”:
But just because some form is in common use among native speakers of a language doesn’t mean it is grammatically correct.
And by the way, when a phrase or sentence is marked as “strange” or “odd”, it may not be wrong but it is not correct either.
Here is an example regarding the possessive structure I used
Wings for an Embattled China - Page 172

McVay was an old friend of my wife's and of mine. I told him that I had invited my wife to meet me in Hankow the next day, but that I had not heard from her as yet. "That would be wonderful, Bondy. If she does come up, 172 WINGS FOR AN

The above example that I found on Googlebooks shows that the pattern I used can be used for joint possession.


And about this sentence : "He also knows that he made a big mistake and I think that he needs people like me not to be out criticizing him but people like me that are friends of him to support him during this time of need."
Here is the explanation for the use of the objective pronoun rather than the possessive pronoun in the above example:
According to a traditional rule, it’s not correct for a pronoun to refer back to a noun in the possessive case: “Toni Morrison’s genius enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured”
According to this rule, this sentence should be written as ““The genius of Toni Morrison enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured”
Last edited by grammarcrazed
quote:
Here is an example regarding the possessive structure I used
Wings for an Embattled China - Page 172

McVay was an old friend of my wife's and of mine. . . .

The above example that I found on Googlebooks shows that the pattern I used can be used for joint possession.
Let's compare with that structure the possessive structure that you actually suggested:
    a) friends of mine and my wife's (Grammarcrazed)
    b) an old friend of my wife's and of mine (Wings . . .)
The two constructions are not the same. I agree with you that W. Langhorne Bond's construction expresses joint possession, but it does not follow that your construction expresses joint possession, too. Bond's construction uses "friend" (singular), and your construction uses "friends" (plural). To see why this matters, compare Bond's construction with a pluralized edition of it:
    b) an old friend of my wife's and of mine
    c) old friends of my wife's and of mine
Do you really want to say that (b) and (c) both express joint possession? Think carefully before you answer, now. Consider the implications:
    d) I visited the houses of Bill's and of John's.
    e) I viewed the posts of David's and of Günter's.
If (c) expresses joint possession, then (d) and (e) do as well. Do you really want to say that?
We just don't seem to agree on this topic, but I really enjoyed it.

Here is another example:

Dead Men's Struggles: Dead to Sin - Alive in Christ. Being a Man ... - Page 25

He's the husband of a friend of mine and my wife's. And, actually, he's not her husband anymore. One day he decided it was too difficult, that the kids were too much work and his wife was too much trouble and he left. He just... left. If you're
Last edited by grammarcrazed
Thanks, Grammarcrazed. I've enjoyed this discussion, too. I sincerely appreciate your enthusiastic participation. It is useful to know, I think, that the singularity or plurality of the head noun-phrase matters in "calculating" joint or separate possession in phrases like these. So I am very happy that this has come to light.

In your new example -- "a friend of mine and my wife's" -- the noun modified by the of-phrase is singular, so the type of possession is necessarily joint possession. Necessarily. If one thing/being is possessed by two people, it cannot not be possessed by both of them.

Any example containing a singular noun-head is irrelevant to resolving the question of separate versus joint possession in phrases like these, because the question of separate versus joint possession only arises when the noun head is plural.

In googling one of your examples, I came upon a discussion at a different forum (here) where other native speakers have been giving you essentially the same feedback. I enjoyed reading the thread, by the way, and I especially enjoyed seeing your pen name there. This topic could not be more suited to getting "High on Grammar"; any way you smoke it, it's pretty trippy. Wink

Now, before you comb Googlebooks for examples containing "friends [plural] of my wife's and mine," I'd like to say this: I am quite certain that you will be able to find such examples, even though I haven't checked myself. However, if you found such examples, they would not constitute proof that joint possession was being expressed. They would only beg the question.

Regarding the phrase "my wife and I's," just yesterday a friend of mine came upon an extremely interesting discussion of this very phrase at another website (here) and kindly shared it with me. The discussion took place a couple of years ago. It's very good and, in my opinion, worth reading.
Last edited by gunter
Here are my general conclusions, based on this thread, my reading of Quirk et al., my private musings, and the discussion on the Stack Exchange:

1) my wife and I's friends
(grammatically correct, but arbitrarily considered nonstandard; joint possession)


2) my wife's and my friends
(correct; separate possession)


3) my wife and my friends
(correct, but weird; joint possession)


4) mine and my wife's friends
(incorrect; separate possession)


5) my wife's friends and mine
(correct; separate possession)


6) friends of mine and my wife's
(correct; separate possession)


7) friends of my wife and me
(correct; joint possession)
Here is what Professor Paul Brians says in his "common errors in English Usage":

When writing about jointly owned objects, people often fret about where to place apostrophes. The standard pattern is to treat the two partners as a single unit—a couple—and put an apostrophe only after the last name: “John and Jane’s villa,” “Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.” Add more owners and you still use only one apostrophe: “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice’s party.”
If each person owns his or her own item, then each owner gets an apostrophe: “John’s and Jane’s cars“ (each of them separately owns a car).

But when you begin to introduce pronouns the situation becomes much murkier. “Jane and his villa” doesn’t sound right because it sounds like Jane and the villa make a pair. The most common solution—“Jane’s and his villa”—violates the rule about using the possessive form only on the last partner in the ownership. However, most people don’t care and using this form won’t raise too many eyebrows.

How about when you have two pronouns? “She and his villa” definitely won’t work. “Her and his villa” might get by, but if you say “his and her villa” you inevitably remind people of the common phrase “his and hers” with a very different meaning: male and female, as in a sale on “his and hers scarves.”

If you have time to think ahead, especially when writing, the best solution is to avoid this sort of construction altogether by rewording: “Jane and John have a villa outside Florence. Their villa is beautiful.” “The villa owned by Jane and him is beautiful.” “The villa is Jane’s and his.” “The villa that he and she own is beautiful.”

Things get tricky when using personal pronouns instead of names. Note that “I’s” is not an acceptable substitute for “my.” It’s not “directions to my wife and I’s house,” but if you say “directions to my wife and my house” it sounds as if you were providing directions to your wife plus directions to your house. Stick with simpler constructions like “our house.”

Other awkward examples you might want to avoid: “your and my shares” (better: “your share and mine”), “their and our shares” (better: their share and ours”), and “his and her shares” (not too bad, but “his share and hers” is better).
Last edited by grammarcrazed
I think this will put an end to this discussion:
The linking may result in ambiguity: (1) the chairman’s and the treasurer’s proposals may mean either the same as the joint proposals of the chairman and the treasurer or the same as the proposal(s) of the chairman and that ( or those) of the treasurer. The meaning may well be clear in the context; but if not, prefer the longer constructions.

(2)The omission of the genitive inflection in “ the chairman and the treasure’s proposal
( intended to indicate a joint proposal ) is not fully acceptable in formal English. Prefer one of the constructions in (1)
From “ LONGMAN GUIDE TO ENGLISH USAGE” by Sidney Greenbaum and Janet Whitcut with an introduction by Randolph Quirk. I guess you are familiar with these brilliant names.
Last edited by grammarcrazed
quote:
Note that “I’s” is not an acceptable substitute for “my.” It’s not “directions to my wife and I’s house” . . .

-- Professor Brians
But "I's" is not being used as a substitute for "my" in the phrase "my wife and I's house." The apostrophe-s is not being added to "I" but rather to the group phrase "my wife and I." That is to say, "my wife and I's house" = "[my wife and I]'s house.
quote:
. . . but if you say “directions to my wife and my house” it sounds as if you were providing directions to your wife plus directions to your house.

-- Professor Brians
Exactly. That's why the phrase "my wife and I's house" is not only natural and idiomatic and syntactically sound but also clearer semantically.
quote:
Stick with simpler constructions like “our house.”

-- Professor Brians
Wise, but presumptuous. One can only use "our" if the context has already made it clear what "our" means.
quote:
(2)The omission of the genitive inflection in “ the chairman and the treasure’s proposal
( intended to indicate a joint proposal ) is not fully acceptable in formal English.

-- Professor Greenbaum et al.
In whose formal English is that not fully acceptable? The Chicago Manual of Style defines formally acceptable style for many English publications throughout the world. Here's what the 16th edition has to say about that point:
quote:
Joint versus separate possession. Closely linked nouns are considered a single unit in forming the possessive when the thing being "possessed" is the same for both; only the second element takes the possessive form.

  • my aunt and uncle's house
  • Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe
  • Minneapolis and Saint Paul's transportation system

    -- The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Ed., Section 7.22, p. 356. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, 2010.
  • Last edited by gunter

    I like "friends of my wife and of mine." Or, ignoring the other-person-first deferential convention, "friends of mine and of my wife". 

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