If you want to write "my friends' friends," which is best?
(1) My friends' friends
(2) Friends of my friends
(3) Friends of my friends'
(4) Friends of mine's
(5) Friends of friends of mine
(1) clumsy, hence the alternatives.
(2) probably most favored, though liable to be confused as the expansive form of 'friends of mine.'
(3) not wrong, but a little strange looking.
(4) not wrong, another form of (3), but too strange looking.
(5) Too long.
A nitpick: I don't think #1 is clumsy, but there's one way in which it differs in meaning from the rest: "My friends" means not "some friends of me" but "the friends of me". So technically "my friends' friends" means "the friends of my friends". #1 really has to be "some of my friends' friends", to be picky about it, and then it does begin to sound clumsy.
(Kudos, by the way, on ruling that #3 is not actually wrong.)
I like 1) or 2) in this case. I am personally confounded with coming up with a rule as to when to use the subjective or the possessive in example 3), but I affirm that in most cases you can use either. I would not understand example 4) to mean "friends of my friends" if I saw it. In fact, it looks to me like a typo of "friends of mine." I don't think you can add a possessive ending to "mine" forming "mine's" -- unless of course you mean "mine" as a source of raw ore. Example 5) seems awkward, but could have a useful nuance of affirming that you know these second-degree friends.
Back on the topic of example 3) refer to the previous thread in which my confusion is quite manifest:
1) Admit we were possessive and that our language has become unmanageable
Some day I will have to do some legitimate research on this topic.
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