I recently saw a statement about ‘feedback on Jane and my visit to London’. The phrase ‘Jane and my visit’ seems ungrammatical to me. This post considers why. It looks at how to form genitives of nouns, co-ordinated noun phrases and personal pronouns.
It then goes on to consider whether it is possible to form a genitive of a co-ordinated phrase that consists of both a noun phrase and a personal pronoun.
Genitive of nouns
English forms the genitive by adding the suffix –‘s. So, the genitive of the common noun chancellor is chancellor’s and the genitive of the proper noun (name) Jane is Jane’s. This genitive form can be used in Jane’s visit to London.
At first sight, the suffix ‘s attaches to the end of a noun. But it’s not quite as simple as that. Sometimes it attaches to the end of a whole phrase headed by a noun.
For example, the head of the noun phrase the Chancellor of the Exchequer is Chancellor. The genitive of that noun phrase is seen in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s visit. In a sense, the suffix –‘s modifies the noun Chancellor (it talks about a visit by the Chancellor), though it appears at the end of whole noun phrase the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s.
See https://languagemiscellany.com/2021/12/does-english-really-have-case/ for an argument (by Richard Hudson) that the suffix –‘s is not a case suffix marking a noun as genitive, but instead is a possessive pronoun that must, unusually, follow the related noun phase.
Genitive of co-ordinated noun phrases
Sometimes, the genitive is formed from a noun phrase that co-ordinates 2 noun phrases. An example is Jane and John’s visit. This has the structure: [Jane and John]’s visit.
It is also possible to say Jane’s and John’s visits (with separate genitives formed from both Jane and John). But that would imply that Jane made one visit (or more) and John made one (or more) separate visits. It is arguably short for Jane’s visit and John’s visit.
Jane’s and John’s visit (with visit being singular) sounds slightly awkward to me if Jane and John made a single (combined) visit. It is perhaps just about acceptable if Jane made one visit and John made a separate visit.
Genitive of personal pronouns
Personal pronouns form their genitive in a different way. Instead of adding the suffix -‘s, they have a separate form. For example, the genitive of the 1st personal singular pronoun I is me.
Genitive of a noun co-ordinated with a pronoun
So how do you form a genitive from the co-ordinated phrase Jane and I? I can see several ways of trying to do that:
(1) Jane’s and my
Jane’s and my are both genitive. Thus, that combination meets the constraint that phrases conjoined with the conjunction and must normally be phrases of the same kind.
Even so, this version sounds awkward. I think the awkwardness arises because the suffix -‘s usually attaches at the end of the whole phrase, as in Jane and John’s. But in this version, the suffix appears in the middle of the phrase.
(2) Jane and my
awkward because there is no genitive suffix -s at the end of the whole phrase. Arguably, an implicit form of -s (an allomorph) is fused into my, but the scope of that form my does not naturally include Jane.
(3) Jane and my’s
awkward because my is already a genitive form. Including it within the scope of the suffix –‘s marks it as genitive a second time.
(4) Jane and I’s
awkward because the pronoun I cannot bear the suffix –‘s.
(5) my and Jane
awkward because the noun Jane doesn’t bear the suffix –‘s and neither does the whole noun phrase my and Jane
(6) my and Jane’s
marks the whole noun phrase my and Jane with the suffix –‘s. But this marks the pronoun my as genitive for a second time, because it is already marked as genitive.
(7) mine and Jane’s
The form mine is another genitive form of my, used as an independent form when the noun it modified is only implicit. In this context, it is perhaps similar to Jane’s visit and mine.
It is awkward here, though, because:
(1) Jane’s visit and mine seems to refer to 2 separate visits;
(2) although Jane’s visit and mine could be viewed as ending with a 2nd copy of visit that is left unpronounced, that analysis is less plausible if the unpronounced copy precedes the copy that is pronounced.
None of the above 7 alternatives seem fully grammatical to me. To my ear, the ones that come closest to being grammatical are:
(1) Jane’s and my visit;
(7) mine and Jane’s visit.
But even those 2 versions don’t seem fully right to me, and the other 5 versions seem completely wrong.
Curiously, there seems to be no fully grammatical way of forming a genitive form of a co-ordinated phrase that contains both a noun phrase and a pronoun, such as Jane and I. The only grammatical form seems to be a paraphrase, such as the visit by Jane and me to London.