Apostrophes in Names

by Craig Shrives
This Page Includes...

Apostrophes and the Plurals of Names

Do not use an apostrophe to form the plural of a name. For example:
  • The Smith's are in town. wrong cross
  • The Smiths are in town. correct tick
  • Did you visit the Ford's yesterday? wrong cross
  • Did you visit the Fords yesterday? correct tick
  • The Bates's will attend the party. wrong cross
  • The Bateses will attend the party. correct tick
  • Can you ask the Alverez's to move their cars? wrong cross
  • Can you ask the Alverezes to move their cars? correct tick

Treat Surnames Like Normal Nouns

When using an apostrophe to show possession, treat a plural surname like any other plural noun. For example:
  • The Joneses' house correct tick
  • (The house of the Joneses)
  • The angels' share correct tick
  • (The share of the angels)
apostrophes in names

For the Possessive Case, Treat a Plural Name Like Any Other Plural Noun

When an apostrophe is needed to show the possessive form of a plural family name (e.g., the Smiths, the Fords, the Bateses, the Alverezes), the name is treated just like any other plural noun that ends in "s." For example:
  • The Smiths' cat has gone missing. correct tick
  • (Smiths' is the possessive form of the plural proper noun Smiths.)
  • Have you seen the Fords' new car? correct tick
  • (Fords' is the possessive form of Fords.)
  • The Bateses' holiday was ruined by the weather. correct tick
  • (Bateses' is the possessive form of Bateses.)
  • Take these scones to the Alverezes' house. correct tick
  • (Alverezes' is the possessive form of Alverezes.)

Note: To form the plural of any noun ending "s" or "z," add "-es." Thereafter, apply the normal rules to create the possessive form.

The History of the Possessive Apostrophe

The main function of the apostrophe is to replace a missing letter (e.g., aren't, don't). You might not have realized it, but this is related to the possessive apostrophe. (e.g., the Smiths' house, the Joneses' claim)

In old English, possession was shown by adding "es" to the noun regardless of whether it was singular or plural. For example:
  • doges dinner
  • dogses dinner
  • childrenes dinner
  • Sanchezes dinner
Over time, the e was replaced by an apostrophe, and, if that left an ending of -s's, then the second s was removed.

If you use this process today, you will be right every time. There are no exceptions.

A Simple, 100% Safe Method

(1) Add ' to the possessor
(2) Now add an s, but only if the word doesn't end in an s.

This works for everything! (Watch a short video explaining this technique.)
Read more about using apostrophes.

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