When to be possessive?

Interacting with many people expands students vision and broadens their horizons.

This is a tricky one! There are many exceptions to the guidelines that follow. First of all let’s compare the following noun phrases:

  1. students vision
    plural noun + noun – is not possible. It is grammatically incorrect.
  2. students’ vision
    plural noun + possessive + noun is possible, meaning particular vision – the vision of the group of students under discussion. This structure is common when the first noun is ‘animate’.
  3. student vision
    singular noun + noun – is also possible, meaning a kind of vision – ‘student vision’ as opposed to, say, ‘teacher vision’. This structure is common when the first noun is ‘inanimate’.

Returning to our opening example, meaning 2 would appear to be the most appropriate:

  • Interacting with many people expands students’ vision and broadens their horizons.

Notice also that we now have a parallel structure with two clauses containing possessives – expands students’ vision, broadens their horizons.