Susan and Bob's father died recently.

Henryk

Senior Member
Germany, German
Whose father died recently?

We had this in a test and I wrote that Susan and Bob's father did. However, my teacher means that the sentence in the title means that the father of both died recently and not Susan and his father. So, now I'm completely puzzled because I'd have added an apostrophe and an s to "Susan" then.

If I'm wrong, how'd you word the meaning I have described?

Many thanks in advance. :)
 
  • mickgreen58

    Senior Member
    USA-English
    Whose father died recently?

    We had this in a test and I wrote that Susan and Bob's father did. However, my teacher means that the sentence in the title means that the father of both died recently and not Susan and his father. So, now I'm completely puzzled because I'd have added an apostrophe and an s to "Susan" then.

    If I'm wrong, how'd you word the meaning I have described?

    Many thanks in advance. :)
    I am a little confused because you said you answered "Susan and Bob's father did" and your teacher said that was wrong and she said the answer was "father of both died", which is what you chose on the test?

    When reading that sentence, I would assume that Susan and Bob are siblings and that their father had died. If I walked up to someone and said this, I believe they would think the same thing.

    I guess I am a little confused.

    I am not an English teacher by no means, but I have always thought that you always put the apostrophe with the last noun when you are showing a group of nouns showing possesion, but I could be wrong.
     

    Josh_

    Senior Member
    U.S., English
    I see your confusion. In isolation "Susan and Bob's father died" can mean either 'both Susan and the father of Bob died' or 'the father of the two siblings, Bob and Susan, died'. So, it depends on context, but generally, I think most people would understood the sentence as 'the father of both Bob and Susan died', and that I believe is what your teacher intended.
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    Tricky. It sounds like a question made up by a non-native: no native would ever get themselves into this confusing situation.

    Scenario 1: Susan has died. Bob's father has also died. Natives would say Susan has died, and so has Bob's father. They would NOT say Susan and Bob's father died - it's not clear.

    Scenario 2: Susan and Bob are brother and sister, and have lost their father. Natives might well say Susan and Bob's father died. In the circumstances (using two first names) one might assume that the hearer knows they are siblings.

    Does that help?
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    This is how I would analyze it:


    1.Susan and Bob's father (both) died recently.
    Bob's father died. Susan died. (This is somehow unclear, though. I'd add both to help make it read easier.)

    2.Both Susan's and Bob's fathers died.
    Susan's father died. Bob's father died.

    3. Susan's and Bob's father died.
    They shared the same father and he died.


    AngelEyes
     

    kayokid

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I totally agree with the analysis by both Josh and mickgreen58. I understood Susan and Bob to be brother and sister. This is one of those sentences in English that is ambiguous and the context really must be explained to clarify what is meant.
     

    Henryk

    Senior Member
    Germany, German
    Thanks a lot for the great help. :)

    It's pretty illogical, though. Next time when I have to do such tasks, I'm at least forewarned that something like that exist. ;)
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    henryk,

    Can I say I was wrong?

    I was wrong!

    I looked it up and found that mickgreen is correct. When you use a double possession (subjects) of a single item, only the last name gets the apostrophe.

    I learned here, too.


    AngelEyes
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is a very interesting question.
    It's not long since we had a question about a different joint possessive, and it was clear then that both subjects needed the 's.

    Somehow, in Susan and Bob's father, it reads and sounds like (Susan and Bob)'s father. The same thing happens with "He's Peter and Jane's son."

    I think we are so used to talking about names in family or partner groups that we automatically link them into a single unit, either a family (like Susan and Bob) or a partnership (like Peter and Jane).

    Have I put some logic onto this interesting conundrum?

    Fascinating.

    Edit: I'll see if I can find the other thread I mentioned - I may misremember it.
     

    Henryk

    Senior Member
    Germany, German
    henryk,

    Can I say I was wrong?

    I was wrong!

    I looked it up and found that mickgreen is correct. When you use a double possession (subjects) of a single item, only the last name gets the apostrophe.

    I learned here, too.


    AngelEyes
    No problem. :)
    It's absolutely misleading for those who don't know this strange rule.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Panj,

    I found two grammar links that both stated you only needed the apostrophe on the second name.

    I think if I were speaking, that's exactly how I'd say it, but if I were writing it down? I'm pretty sure I'd add an 's to both names, just to keep it absolutely clear.

    Which basically means I'm back where I started. :rolleyes: Thanks a lot!



    AngelEyes
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    If I wanted to say that two people died I would say "Bob's father and Susan died recently. That way there can be no confusion. But I would still tend to start with the word 'both'
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It was in:
    Definite article / possessive nouns
    that we talked about husbands' and wives' perceptions - both subjects needing the possessive apostrophe.

    That's not the same as in this case.

    AngelEyes has defined it more logically than I did.

    So Peter and Jane's children are the fruit of the union of Peter and Jane.
    Peter's and Jane's children are the fruit of two separate unions, of Peter and Florence, and of Cyril and Jane. At least we hope so.

    Whose are those kids over there?
    Peter and Jane's;
    Peter's and Jane's.

    Yes, of course, that sounds right ... ... doesn't it?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    To indicate "of Peter and of Jane" you only need the apostrophe on the second name= "Peter and Jane's" (but you can put it on both). So it can be quite confusing:

    Susan and Jane's father died = the father of Susan and Jane died
    Susan's and Jane's father died = the same
    Susan and Jane's father died = Susan died and so did Jane's father

    Especially in speech it's often difficult to tell how many people died...

    Loob
     

    Henryk

    Senior Member
    Germany, German
    To indicate "of Peter and of Jane" you only need the apostrophe on the second name= "Peter and Jane's" (but you can put it on both). So it can be quite confusing:

    Susan and Jane's father died = the father of Susan and Jane died
    Susan's and Jane's father died = the same
    Susan and Jane's father died = Susan died and so did Jane's father

    Especially in speech it's often difficult to tell how many people died...

    Loob
    Hello Loob, :)

    that stands somewhat in contrast with what panjandrum said. He meant that if I give both Peter and Jane an apostrophe, they don't have the kids together but from different partners.

    So what do others mean?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    This is really difficult!

    I would say that

    Susan's and Jane's father died = Susan and Jane's father died = only one father died....
    whereas
    Susan's and Jane's fathers died = both fathers died

    Eek:eek:

    Loob
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I agree totally with Loob -though this has become despairingly theoretical.

    There are two distinct indicators of the number of deaths.
    (1) The way the possessives are indicated.
    (2) Whether you write father or fathers.

    I copy Loob's post:
    Susan and Jane's father died = the father of Susan and Jane died
    Susan's and Jane's father died = the same
    Susan and Jane's father died = Susan died and so did Jane's father
    and add this line:
    Susan's and Jane's fathers dies died = Susan's father and Jane's father died.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    and add this line:
    Susan's and Jane's fathers dies = Susan's father and Jane's father died.
    The mortician must be raking it in, but how do we assign the singular verb form
    above, "dies" to the two dead parents?
    Fathers dies rolls off the tongue like cold molasses.

    Please explain this mystery.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The mortician must be raking it in, but how do we assign the singular verb form
    above, "dies" to the two dead parents?
    Fathers dies rolls off the tongue like cold molasses.

    Please explain this mystery.
    No problem.
    Mental and physical incompetence.
    Dies will become died, soon, maybe.
     

    Henryk

    Senior Member
    Germany, German
    I agree totally with Loob -though this has become despairingly theoretical.

    There are two distinct indicators of the number of deaths.
    (1) The way the possessives are indicated.
    (2) Whether you write father or fathers.

    I copy Loob's post:
    Susan and Jane's father died = the father of Susan and Jane died
    Susan's and Jane's father died = the same
    Susan and Jane's father died = Susan died and so did Jane's father
    and add this line:
    Susan's and Jane's fathers dies died = Susan's father and Jane's father died.
    Susan and Jane's father died.
    Susan's and Jane's father died.
    Susan's and Jane's fathers died.

    So they mean completely the same?

    Susan and Jane's father died = Susan died and so did Jane's father
    Sorry for the confusion, but here we are at the beginning again, aren't we? :confused:
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Henryk, as my post caused the confusion, let me try to sort it out.

    Susan and Jane's father died
    would normally be taken to mean "the father of Susan and Jane died".

    It could mean "Susan died and so did Jane's father".

    But if you intended this meaning, you would probably word the sentence differently to avoid ambiguity, as winklepicker and Suehil said earlier in this thread.

    Hope that kills it!

    Loob
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    A further clarification -
    Susan's and Jane's fathers died.

    Susan and Jane did not have the same father.

    Susan's father died and Jane's father died. Two people died.
     

    Orange Blossom

    Senior Member
    U.S.A. English
    Context would certainly be needed to know which of the two meanings "Susan and Jane's father died." has. We would need a sentence that states either that Susan and Jane are sisters and consequently considered a unit or that Susan and Jane are not sisters and so are not considered a unit.

    Susan and Jane are sisters. Susan and Jane's father died. <-- One person died.

    Susan and Jane are not sisters. Susan and Jane's father died. <-- Two people died.

    Orange Blossom
     
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