The father of Bill and the father of Tom are coming

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Roymalika

Senior Member
Punjabi
I was sitting outside a shop, chatting with my friends. I saw two men coming towards us. I told my friends, "the father of Bill and the father of Tom are coming." They both are very educated people: one is a PhD in structural engineering, and the other one is a PhD in molecular biology.

(NB: Bill and Tom are also our friends.)


Is it a correct way to express that Bill's father and Tom's father are coming?
 
  • DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Do you mean this?

    Bill's and Tom's fathers are coming.
    Yes. "The father of Bill and the father of Tom are coming" is correct, but it's very stilted and unnatural, and I'd be surprised to see it anywhere outside of a grammar textbook.

    However, given that Bill and Tom are your friends, the likelihood is that you'd know what their fathers' names were and you'd therefore say "Mr Jones and Mr Brown ... " or whatever their first names were. In other words, I don't see why in this scenario you'd need to refer to them as your friends' fathers.
     

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    That sounds good to me.
    But "Bill's and Tom's fathers are coming" suggests to me as if they each have more than one father. So I think "Bill's father and Tom's father are coming" should be used; it clearly shows that they each have one father. Right?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    But "Bill's and Tom's fathers are coming" suggests to me as if they each have more than one father. So I think "Bill's father and Tom's father are coming" should be used; it clearly shows that they each have one father. Right?
    No-one on earth has more than one father. Your listeners know you don't mean that Bill (or Tom) has more than one father. Bill and Tom could have the same father, but you said "fathers" so they don't.

    In English if we are unclear, we add another sentence. For example:

    You: Here come a couple of papas.
    Him: Huh?
    You: I know those two men. I know their sons: Tom and Bill.
    Him: Oh.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    But "Bill's and Tom's fathers are coming" suggests to me as if they each have more than one father. So I think "Bill's father and Tom's father are coming" should be used; it clearly shows that they each have one father. Right?
    In a cultural context where it is possible that either Bill or Tom has more than one person he refers to as his father, "Bill's father and Tom's father are coming" would be clearer. In most situations, it won't be necessary.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Grammarians talk about the s-genitive and the of-genitive (as in 'the bride's father' and 'the father of the bride' respectively). In English, we strongly favour the s-genitive, especially if the possessor is human, and if the phrase describing the possessor is short (so we might say 'the father of the Chancellor of the Exchequer' rather than 'the Chancellor of the Exchequer's father'). In your example, the possessors are human and the phrases are short. Thus, 'Bill's and Tom's father' is favoured.
     

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    (so we might say 'the father of the Chancellor of the Exchequer' rather than 'the Chancellor of the Exchequer's father').
    Sorry, but I think the blue phrase should be: The father of the Exchequer's Chancellor

    Am I right?
     
    Last edited:

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    No, 'the Chancellor of the Exchequer' is a set phrase that you can't alter. We are concerned about this person as the possessor. The s-genitive and of-genitive are not always interchangeable.
     

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    Alright, Thanks.


    (so we might say 'the father of the Chancellor of the Exchequer' rather than 'the Chancellor of the Exchequer's father')
    But you said it's preferable to use short phrase. The second phrase is short, the first one is long. Why did you say you'd prefer the first? :confused:
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I prefer the 'of' phrase because my brain is too small to sort out the complexity of the first using ''s'. 'Chancellor of the Exchequer' is a long phrase to my mind.

    Consider "That Alfa Romeo is the brother of my stepfather's first wife's cousin's car". Perhaps a useful guideline would be to use 'of -' if the 'possessor phrase' is more than one word.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    But you said it's preferable to use short phrase. The second phrase is short, the first one is long. Why did you say you'd prefer the first? :confused:
    I was comparing the bride (short phrase) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (long phrase). I want to talk about each of their fathers. I'm more likely to use the s-genitive for the short phrase (the bride's father) and the of-genitive for the long phrase (the father of the Chancellor of the Exchequer).
     
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