My wife and I's...

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My wife and I's...

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:22 am UTC

A relative of mine (not my wife!) brought this to the fore, yesterday: the phrase that relates to the possession (actual, nominal or conceptual) of something, jointly, by both myself and the person who I may claim as matrimonial chattal.

Going by the usual deconstruction, it is "({my} wife)'s favourite book" and it is "{my} favourite book", hence perhaps it is "(({my} wife) and {my})'s favourite book", here using my arbitrary enclosures for elements for which standard possessive rules should apply, (), and for the pre-loaded special possessive forms, {}, that happen to be both the same in this example. "Timmy is (John and Jane)'s dog" certainly seems more valid than the doubly-apostrophised version, and "the book of the wife of me" is quite clearly a nested possessive, whatsoever form those possesives take.

Or is it "(({my} wife) and I)'s favourite book" or "({my} wife)'s [and] {my} favourite book" or "({my} wife and me)'s favourite book", amongst several other variations I could mention? Especially if the latter is commutatively identical to whatever grouping-scheme applies to "me and my wife's favourite book", which I think is an uncontroversial phrasing - at least grammatically.

I've a feeling that there's much in this that is dependant upon local dialect. And in common speech I am not unfamiliar with either hearing or uttering "I's" or even "my's" in suitably accented patter, even if I wouldn't expect it to be written as such.

Ultimately, though, the favourite book of the grouped pairing of both myself and the wife of myself seems a difficult phrasing to accomplish, especially if gentility insists on placing one's better half to the fore in such an exposition.

My relative's and your's (!) expertise in such matters may not entirely influence my future conversational style (certainly not vocally!), but it sounded like something that would make an interesting conversation.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Dthen » Mon Jun 13, 2016 12:00 pm UTC

I would use the word "our" whenever possible.
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby measure » Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:49 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:Ultimately, though, the favourite book of the grouped pairing of both myself and the wife of myself seems a difficult phrasing to accomplish, especially if gentility insists on placing one's better half to the fore in such an exposition.

My relative's and your's (!) expertise in such matters may not entirely influence my future conversational style (certainly not vocally!), but it sounded like something that would make an interesting conversation.


I would say "my wife's and my favorite book" or "my and my wife's favorite book" (the singular "book" indicating that my favorite book and my wife's favorite book are one rather than two) if I had to order it that way, but I might change it to "the favorite book of my wife and me" or just go with "our favorite book" if I could.

Similarly, "my relative's and your expertise".

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Derek » Wed Jun 15, 2016 8:10 am UTC

I think I actually prefer "My wife and I's", though I have stumbled on such phrases myself many times and produced "My wife and my", but I think that sounds stilted.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Sandor » Fri Jun 17, 2016 12:18 pm UTC

Dthen wrote:I would use the word "our" whenever possible.

The same problem can arise with "your" as well as "my". In that case, some dialects don't have a distinct 2nd person plural possessive pronoun (no "y'all's" or similar) you can use instead.

One example might be "Is that really you and your wife's favourite book?". If you want to put the wife first for whatever reason, you get something like "Is that really your wife and your favourite book?", which sounds wrong to me whichever way I phrase it.

Derek wrote:I think I actually prefer "My wife and I's"...

That might be because "My wife and I" is something of a stock phrase (perhaps especially in the UK because of the Queen's fondness for saying its partner phrase "My husband and I"). I don't think there's an equivalent "your wife and you" stock phrase.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Aiwendil » Sat Jun 18, 2016 4:03 pm UTC

To my ear, "my wife's and my" sounds best, "my wife and my's" sounds a little off but would probably not really stick out in conversation, and "my wife and I's" sounds very jarring. I'm not sure why adding the enclitic to "I" sounds so much worse to me than adding it to "my", but it does.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Xanthir » Tue Jun 21, 2016 7:50 pm UTC

Probably because the "I's" contraction (for "I is") is also associated with some "bad" dialects, so it's unconsciously biasing you against it.
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby chridd » Wed Jun 22, 2016 9:46 am UTC

...or because "I's" as a possessive would normally be wrong (in most cases it should be "my").
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Aiwendil » Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:58 pm UTC

...or because "I's" as a possessive would normally be wrong (in most cases it should be "my").


Yeah, but my point was that "my's" is also normally wrong, but "my wife and my's" sounds less wrong to me than "my wife and I's". I think Xanthir may be right, the non-standard contraction "I's" probably biases me against it.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:12 pm UTC

I just don't feel that one. Excluding "my wife's and my", I'd find myself preferring "my wife and I's" over "my wife and my", because I'm probably mentally parsing it as (my wife and I)'s, applying the default affix to a nonstandard ad-hoc root.
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:02 am UTC

Don't forget that the preference of "I" over "me" can be misused. "It belongs to my wife and I" should be "It belongs to my wife and me", for example.

Thus "(my wife and me)'s" might be considered the first step, then an argument over whether "me's" definitely becomes "my" (except where it might become "mine", dependant upon context), then another about whether the process of 'multiplying all elements by apostrophe-s', algebraically speaking, results in "my wife's" emerging on the other side of the conjuction.


But I'm glad it's an interesting subject... Carry on!
Last edited by Soupspoon on Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:49 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:41 am UTC

True, and I think my problem at that point is that I just don't think of "my" as having an invisible 's that can be applied across the whole phrase. I do think I would more easily accept "my wife and I's" even in a phrase acting as an object, although I think I'd be reduced to the stammering parse error before I got there myself.
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby JackHK » Sun Jul 03, 2016 12:10 pm UTC

Doubtless this will anger any prescriptivists, but my mind quickly settled on "Me and my wife's..." as how I would phrase that. (if I had a wife!)

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Jul 04, 2016 2:21 am UTC

Yeah, and what's nice there is that the joint ownership is built in, so even with a plural, "me and my wife's kids", you don't have to ask whether you mean that there are children belonging to both of you or whether you just each have one.
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Aiwendil » Tue Jul 05, 2016 3:56 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Yeah, and what's nice there is that the joint ownership is built in, so even with a plural, "me and my wife's kids", you don't have to ask whether you mean that there are children belonging to both of you or whether you just each have one.


I don't think that's true - you could still incorrectly parse it as "{me} and {my wife's kids}" rather than the intended "{me and my wife's} kids".

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Zohar » Tue Jul 05, 2016 4:10 pm UTC

I think most people would say "My wife's kids and I", wouldn't they?
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby measure » Thu Jul 07, 2016 1:06 am UTC

Zohar wrote:I think most people would say "My wife's kids and I", wouldn't they?

Only (ideally) if the group was functioning as the subject rather than the object of the sentence.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:13 am UTC

Sure, but there's "my wife's kids and me", too. Inverting it seems unlikely to me unless the joint possessive is intended. But it's true that it could be read that way.
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Aiwendil » Fri Jul 08, 2016 12:58 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Sure, but there's "my wife's kids and me", too. Inverting it seems unlikely to me unless the joint possessive is intended. But it's true that it could be read that way.


It doesn't seem at all unlikely to me. It's non-standard, but locutions such as "Me and my friend were talking the other day" seem pretty common to me. I could readily imagine someone saying, I don't know, "Me and my wife's kids went to the movies yesterday."

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby measure » Sun Jul 10, 2016 6:46 pm UTC

Aiwendil wrote:"Me and my wife's kids went to the movies yesterday."

This seems odd to me only because of the "me...went" construction. I guess I might suspect an intended meaning of "the kids that are both mine and my wife's", but in that case, I would expect just "my kids" with "that are also my wife's" being implied unless otherwise specified (or "our kids" with the identity of "us" being implied as "me and my wife"). As it is, I think I would most naturally interpret this as "Me(?) went to the movies yesterday, and my wife's kids (who are not mine) also went with me."

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby ThirdParty » Sun Jul 10, 2016 8:00 pm UTC

After considering all the options, I've decided that "my wife and myself's favorite book" is the least bad. You have a wife, you have a self, and they jointly have a favorite book; problem solved.

measure wrote:I would say "my wife's and my favorite book"
Aiwendil wrote:To my ear, "my wife's and my" sounds best
This sounds good because it's a grammatically correct way of referring to a book. Unfortunately, it refers to the wrong book: one which is your wife's favorite book and also your favorite book, when what was sought was a phrase refering to your joint favorite. What if your wife's favorite book is not the same as your favorite book, and so your joint favorite is a compromise between the two?

Derek wrote:I think I actually prefer "My wife and I's"
Copper Bezel wrote:I'd find myself preferring "my wife and I's"
The question is: why is the pronoun in the nominative case when it is not the subject of a verb?

Soupspoon wrote:"(my wife and me)'s" might be considered the first step
JackHK wrote:my mind quickly settled on "Me and my wife's..." as how I would phrase that.
The question is: why is the pronoun in the accusative case when it is not the object of a verb?

Derek wrote:I have stumbled on such phrases myself many times and produced "My wife and my"
I don't like that. You can't turn a noun phrase into a possessive adjective by just inflecting one piece of it. Anyway, what would you do if you wanted to list yourself before your wife? "My and my wife favorite book" is an obvious non-starter.

Aiwendil wrote:"my wife and my's" sounds a little off but would probably not really stick out in conversation
Ick. You can't use "and" to conjoin a noun ("my wife") with an adjective ("my"); it requires two conjuncts which are the same part of speech as one another.

I guess you could try "my wife and mine's" instead, since at least "mine" is a noun, but it usually refers to a thing you possess, not to yourself.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby JackHK » Wed Jul 13, 2016 7:58 pm UTC

ThirdParty wrote:JackHK wrote:
my mind quickly settled on "Me and my wife's..." as how I would phrase that.

The question is: why is the pronoun in the accusative case when it is not the object of a verb?


I supppose one analysis is that "me" isn't just the accusative form, but the default, used whenever it's not the bare unmodified subject of a verb.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby ThirdParty » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:08 pm UTC

JackHK wrote:
ThirdParty wrote:
JackHK wrote:my mind quickly settled on "Me and my wife's..." as how I would phrase that.
The question is: why is the pronoun in the accusative case when it is not the object of a verb?
I supppose one analysis is that "me" isn't just the accusative form, but the default, used whenever it's not the bare unmodified subject of a verb.
That's interesting. If it's true that "me" is not just accusative but also default, then that would indeed solve the problem.

What evidence do we have that it's the default form? I suppose children are more likely to make the error "me want cookies!" than "give I cookies!". And there's an etymological case to be made that "me" is an older word than "I". But neither of these strike me as fully convincing. Is there some non-accusative context in which "me" is unambiguously correct to use?

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Derek » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:11 pm UTC

ThirdParty wrote:That's interesting. If it's true that "me" is not just accusative but also default, then that would indeed solve the problem.

What evidence do we have that it's the default form? I suppose children are more likely to make the error "me want cookies!" than "give I cookies!". And there's an etymological case to be made that "me" is an older word than "I". But neither of these strike me as fully convincing. Is there some non-accusative context in which "me" is unambiguously correct to use?

I have heard this analysis before as well, on Language Log I believe.

Another piece of evidence I can think of is that "Me" is used as a standalone answer to questions instead of I, even when the interrogative is a subject: "Who went to the store?" "Me". Note that "I did" would be acceptable here, but I don't think "I" by itself would be.
Last edited by Derek on Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:12 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby flicky1991 » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:11 pm UTC

ThirdParty wrote:Is there some non-accusative context in which "me" is unambiguously correct to use?
When it's part of a prepositional phrase? "Give the cookies to me." "This is a cookie from me." "Throw a cookie at me."
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Derek » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:13 pm UTC

flicky1991 wrote:
ThirdParty wrote:Is there some non-accusative context in which "me" is unambiguously correct to use?
When it's part of a prepositional phrase? "Give the cookies to me." "This is a cookie from me." "Throw a cookie at me."

That's still an object though, and English is not generally considered to distinguish an accusative from a general objective case.

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby flicky1991 » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:14 pm UTC

Derek wrote:
flicky1991 wrote:
ThirdParty wrote:Is there some non-accusative context in which "me" is unambiguously correct to use?
When it's part of a prepositional phrase? "Give the cookies to me." "This is a cookie from me." "Throw a cookie at me."

That's still an object though, and English is not generally considered to distinguish an accusative from a general objective case.

Hmm, how about "The school near me is closed today."?
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby chridd » Wed Jul 13, 2016 10:44 pm UTC

Derek wrote:That's still an object though, and English is not generally considered to distinguish an accusative from a general objective case.
That's sort of circular, though, since the only place English distinguishes subject vs. object case is in pronouns.

flicky1991 wrote:Hmm, how about "The school near me is closed today."?
Still an object of a preposition.

For "me" being the default: There's also the fact that in pretty much every instance (that I can think of, at least) where traditional prescriptive grammar disagrees with what comes naturally to some people regarding case, what comes naturally is the object case (me) and the prescriptive grammar says to use the subject case (I)... the only exceptions I can think of are "...and I" as an object (which is hypercorrection) and who vs. whom (where most (or at least many) people use "who" in all cases).
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Aug 17, 2016 9:57 am UTC

Thinking about it, I might end up saying "My wife and I favourite restaurant" to avoid saying I's. Not deliberately - but it does have a precedent in newspaper headline English (e.g. "Florida government debt reduces", that is the debt belonging to the government belonging to Florida).
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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Aug 17, 2016 11:55 am UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Thinking about it, I might end up saying "My wife and I favourite restaurant" to avoid saying I's. Not deliberately - but it does have a precedent in newspaper headline English (e.g. "Florida government debt reduces", that is the debt belonging to the government belonging to Florida).
Whilst funny-looking, I think (fearing I am about to trip over some error in linguistic recollection) that what we have there is an adjectival chain. Not generic 'debt' but more specifically described 'government debt' (i.e. not 'household debt'), "governmental debt" being definitely adjectival but more awkward.

Similarly, "Florida" is the back-abbreviated form of "Floridian". But I'm not sure if it is used as "(Floridian government)al debt" or "Floridian (governmental debt)", in long-hand.

(I could imgine "government(al) Florida(/ian) debt" being used, in whichever intended grouping, if initially subdividing all debt in Florida and only now separating civil/personal/etc...)

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Re: My wife and I's...

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Aug 17, 2016 12:04 pm UTC

I'd say that "government debt" looks more like a compound noun to me. The oddest thing in that example headline is the intransitive use of "reduces" rather than anything about "Florida government debt".

Sure, it might be smoother if one of the first two nouns were possessive ("Florida's government debt" or "Florida government's debt"), but I feel like neither really has to be. And both "Florida government reduces debt" and "Government debt falls" are grammatically unremarkable headline sentences.
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