Possessives and Attributives

Q. I have suddenly become an editor and am having trouble on a daily basis with the numeric use of decades. First, is “the 90s” or “the ’90s” correct? We often see the apostrophe omitted these days. Next, if a sentence contains the phrase, “Perhaps the 70s best director . . .” (meaning, the best director of that decade), “70s” is both plural and possessive. Should it be “70’s”? “70s’”? Other than reconstructing the sentence, what’s an editor to do?

Q. My husband owns a production company with his brother. The name of the company is Deep-Dish Pictures. The brothers would like to state on their video jacket that the film is: A PEPPERONI BROTHERS FILM. No one in the production company can agree if it should be: A PEPPERONI BROTHERS FILM, A PEPPERONI BROTHER’S FILM, or A PEPPERONI BROTHERS’ FILM. [Company and surname changed for this forum.] Please help!!!! Thanks!

Q. A friend of John or a friend of John’s? I’ve heard that both are correct. A friend tossed the famous ambiguity at me this way: “A student of Einstein.” Unless it’s Einstein’s, then it might be taken to mean a student who is working on Einstein.

Q. When using a pronoun to replace the first noun when two nouns show possession of one item, which case should the pronoun be? For example, in the sentence “I’m going to my uncle and aunt’s house,” “uncle” is not in the possessive case. So which case should the pronoun be? “I’m going to him and my aunt’s house”? “I’m going to he and my aunt’s house”? Or, “I’m going to his and my aunt’s house”? And, if the answer is “his,” how do you reconcile that the pronoun is not agreeing with the noun it replaces in gender, number, and case? And what is correct if the pronoun replaces the second noun? “Megan’s and his room”? Or “Megan and his room”?

Q. Which is correct: “so and so, four months pregnant” or “so and so, four months’ pregnant”?

Q. My fourteen-year-old stepson claims that the newest version of Microsoft Word “corrects” the contraction “it’s” by removing the apostrophe. He also claims that they “looked it up” online and that the rule has been changed so that neither the contraction nor the possessive has an apostrophe. I explained to him that the contraction and possessive of “its” may be one of the most difficult rules for people to learn because many people want to believe there should be an apostrophe for the possessive form. Are you aware of a so-called change? I never trust software and I am trying to convince him that he should not trust it either. Thank you for your time.

Q. My editor keeps correcting my possessive. Which is correct? (One person owns the house but several people live there.) We went to the Kerr’s or We went to the Kerrs’ or We went to the Kerrs. I used the first one and she says it’s wrong. Thank you so much.

Q. I somewhat often find myself struggling to find a grammatical construct for adding information about a possessive, particularly where the additional information is nonsubstantive enough that I don’t want to dedicate an entire sentence to presenting it. An example is: “The school’s, which is across the street, bell rings at three o’clock.” I expect that the answer is to change my phrasing. If anyone can guide me out of this desperate quandary, I’m quite certain that it’s my heroes at the CMOS.

Q. A friend and I were looking at a poster that read “guys apartment.” I believe it should read “guys’ apartment.” She claims that it should read “guys’s apartment” and that the CMOS specifically gives the example of “guys’s” to make “guys” possessive. I looked through every section on possessives and did not find the word “guys’s” or any rule that would make this correct. Some people say “you guys’s apartment”—did I overlook the word “guys’s” as used in the attributive position? (I don’t think I did.)

Q. The information posted on the Possessives and Attributives web page comes close to answering my question, but I would appreciate a more detailed explanation: Did we have dinner at the Smiths or at the Smiths’? I am tempted to omit the apostrophe if I consider the preposition at equivalent to German bei + dative plural, French chez, Italian da, etc. But if “at the Smiths’” is shorthand for “at the Smiths’ house,” perhaps I need an apostrophe. Is Smiths functioning as a genitive or an attributive adjective? What if, instead of Smiths, I refer to a group of people (residents, occupants) by some other word, e.g., We had dinner at the neighbors, Canadians, etc.?