Grammar Using Apostrophes with Last Names Ending in s, ch, or z |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Using Apostrophes with Last Names Ending in s, ch, or z

Some topics in American English grammar may require repeat visits and discussions, mainly because they can remain elusive even after practice, review, and application. One of those topics is how to form the plural and possessive forms of last names ending in s, ch, or z.

Most of us are likely comfortable with creating the plural and the plural possessive for a last name such as Robinson. For the plural, we just add an s (the Robinsons). For the plural possessive, we follow with an apostrophe (the Robinsons’ porch). But what if the last name is Dennis, Finch, or Martinez?

Rule: To form the plural of a last name that ends with an s, add an es. To form the possessive of the plural, add an apostrophe.

Examples
The Dennises are a nice family.
The Dennises’ family lineage is fascinating.

By comparison, if we are speaking of only one member of the Dennises, we would apply standard rules for singular possessive punctuation.

Examples
Sabrina Dennis is the oldest sibling.
Sabrina Dennis’s birth order was first. (or Sabrina Dennis’ birth order was first; either punctuation style is acceptable.)

Rule: To form the plural of a last name that ends with a ch, add an es. To form the possessive of the plural, add an apostrophe.

Examples
The Finches live right down the street from us.
The Finches’ old house is a neighborhood attraction.

If the ch ending makes a sound, add just an to form the plural. For the possessive, follow it with an apostrophe.

Examples
The Bachs live right down the street from us.
The Bachs’ old house is a neighborhood attraction.

Rule: To form the plural of a last name that ends with a z, add an es. To form the possessive of the plural, add an apostrophe.

Examples
The Martinezes like to go to the lake for time with family during the summer.
The Martinezes’ favorite food to cook on the grill is chicken.

By comparison, if we are speaking of only one member of the Martinezes, we would apply standard rules for singular possessive punctuation.

Examples
Raul Martinez joins his family at the lake for time together during the summer.
Raul Martinez‘s favorite food to eat from the grill is chicken.

For more helpful discussion and examples concerning this topic, see our article Apostrophes with Names Ending in s, ch, or z.

Pop Quiz

Applying what you’ve learned in this article, choose the correct plural or plural possessive noun in each sentence. The original proper noun is in parentheses.

  1. I will soon be working with the [Davis’s / Davises’] daughter. (Davis)
  2. The dog is with the [Rodriguezes’ / Rodriguezes] right now. (Rodriguez)
  3. Have you been to the [Denches’ / Denches] new restaurant? (Dench)
  4. The [Azizes / Azizzes] now have two children in college. (Aziz)
  5. The [Portisses’ / Portises’] recipe for cotton candy has become wildly popular. (Portis)

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. I will soon be working with the Davises’ daughter.
  2. The dog is with the Rodriguezes right now.
  3. Have you been to the Denches’ new restaurant?
  4. The Azizes now have two children in college.
  5. The Portises’ recipe for cotton candy has become wildly popular.

 

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

59 responses to “Using Apostrophes with Last Names Ending in s, ch, or z

  1. Mollie Player says:

    The one I get stuck on is children’s. Most people write children’s, but shouldn’t it be childrens’?

  2. Lennex D. says:

    What would the plural of Dennis be? Dennises? And the plural possessive, Dennises’s?

    • You and your family would be the Dennises. If we were speaking of something belonging to your family, say your house, it could be the Dennises’s or the Dennises’ house. We would favor Dennises’ because that’s probably how we would pronounce it when speaking.

      • Dennis Day says:

        My name is Dennis and it drives me crazy when people write Dennis’ when referring to a singular possessive. Although it is technically acceptable, I feel that it should ALWAYS be Dennis’s.

  3. Richy says:

    I noticed there are no examples of words ending with a double S. Do these same rules apply? For example, an entire class? (The class’/classes’/class’s favorite song was the alphabet song.)

  4. James Ellis says:

    Thanks so much for the clarification. My last name is Ellis, and until five minutes ago I was unsure about how to use apostrophes with my own name.

  5. Crystal Barreras says:

    Join us to celebrate Cruz’s second birthday!
    Cruz’s or Cruz’ Birthday

    Our last name is Barreras.
    How do I make that plural?

  6. Richard Winters says:

    What about names ending in ers. Like Winters or Peters.

    They end in s, but sound odd following the rules for names ending in s.

    The Winterses moved away.
    The Winterses’ house.
    Bill Winters’s car

    Are these correct?

  7. Jeanine says:

    Last name is Williams
    On a Christmas card –
    Merry Christmas
    The Williams’ or The Williams’s or The Williamses?

  8. Thomas says:

    I am not sure if this has been answered already but how do you pluralize a French name that ends in a silent “s”?

  9. Matthew says:

    My son is named Silas. If I want to show possession with his name, would the correct spelling be Silas’, as in Silas’ turn, or Silas’ bike, etc?
    Now that I look at an earlier response it looks like Silas’ or Silas’s are acceptable.

    Thanks.

  10. Naman says:

    If we write conscience and Jesus’, then why do we use ‘s again in Prime Minister of Mauritius’s? Thanks.

    • As this post states, there are conflicting policies and theories about how to show possession when writing words or names ending in s. The following are acceptable spellings for these names ending in s:
      Jesus’s OR Jesus’
      Prime Minister of Mauritius’s speech OR Prime Minister of Mauritius’ speech

      The word conscience does not end in s. The possessive of that word is conscience’s. See also our Rules for Apostrophes and the post Apostrophes with Words Ending in s.

  11. Leslie says:

    How would you write from a family of two with the last name Meyers? Is it the Meyerses or the Meyers’?

  12. Courtney says:

    My last name ends in 2 S’s (“Strauss”). So, when signing a card from the family, it would read “Sincerely, the Strauss’ ” – Correct?

  13. Donalda Gillis says:

    To pluralize the surname Gillis should it be Gillises?

    To show possession would one say the Gillises’ car or could you say the Gillis’s car?

    Thanking you.

    • As the post states, “To show the plural of a name that ends with a ch, s, or z sound, add es.… To show plural possession of a name ending in s, ch, or z, form the plural first; then immediately use the apostrophe.” Therefore, the plural is Gillises, and the plural possessive is Gillises’.

  14. danna says:

    Thank you for this post. I work in state government and this is an ongoing battle in a state that ends in s. There’s even legislation stating how the plural form of Arkansas should be written. FYI – I believe the legislation says Arkansas’s, but I prefer and use Arkansas’. I guess that makes me a criminal.

    • You probably mean the singular possessive form for the state of Arkansas. If you find the exact wording of any such legislation or guidance on this, please pass it along to us; we’d love to see it. We agree that writing Arkansas’ main crop is rice is cleaner and simpler than Arkansas’s main crop is rice.

  15. Jennifer says:

    I would like to buy a sign for my new hot tub. The sign says, “Welcome to the (last name) hot tub.” Our last name is Diaz. Would it be Diaz’es, Diazes’, Diazes, or something else?

    • As the post states, “To show the plural of a name that ends with a ch, s, or z sound, add es.… To show plural possession of a name ending in s, ch, or z, form the plural first; then immediately use the apostrophe.” Therefore, the plural is Diazes, and the plural possessive is Diazes’.

  16. Maria says:

    My Auntie’s family has the surname Louis.
    I’m unsure how to correctly pluralize their name. For example, I might say, “I’m out with the Louis.”
    In this case the surname is pronounced LOO-EE. Therefore, Louises doesn’t seem correct.
    Although a single apostrophe usually suggests possession, I wonder if it is correct to use it in this case:
    I’m out with the Louis’.
    Please advise.
    Many thanks!

    • Names ending in an unpronounced s will not conform to our recommended rules and practices no matter how hard we try. We do not recommend using an apostrophe for a simple plural, and doing so is not likely to help pronunciation. We recommend avoiding the plural in written communication by writing “We are out with the Louis family.”

  17. Nice says:

    Plural of Cortez?

    Example:
    Merry Christmas from the Cortezes!
    Is this correct?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      As the post states, “To show the plural of a name that ends with a ch, s, or z sound, add es.” Therefore, Cortezes is correct.

  18. Jes says:

    My son is named Kross. How do you correctly spell “Kross’ first Christmas”?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      As the post states, “To show singular possession of a name ending in s or z, some writers add just an apostrophe. Others also add another s.
      Kross’ or Kross’s are acceptable.

  19. Rose Fountain says:

    My bird’s name is Stitch. What is the correct way to show possession? Stitchs’ Toys, Stitch’s Toys, Stitches’ Toys, Stitche’s Toys? Ordering engraving and would like it to be correct.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      As the post states, “To show plural possession of a name ending in s, ch, or z, form the plural first; then immediately use the apostrophe.” Therefore write Stitch’s.

  20. Mary Brunsveld says:

    How would you write “The DeVries” on a mailbox if there is a family of 5 people living in the home? Or, if you are sending a wedding invitation meant for the whole family?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      If the last name is DeVries, follow the rule in the post: To form the plural of a name that ends with an s, add an es. Therefore, “The DeVrieses” is the correct spelling. The invitation could be addressed to “The DeVries Family.”

  21. Richard Bliss says:

    Our last name is Bliss. We have always written Bliss’, rather than Blisses on cards.
    Which is correct, or can both styles be used?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Our Rule 2d of Apostrophes says, “If someone’s name ends in s, ch, z, we must add es for the plural.” Therefore, Blisses is grammatically correct. Writing Bliss’ with an apostrophe indicates possession by one person whose name is Bliss.

  22. Jennifer Wiggins says:

    Our last name is Wiggins. Should it be “The Wiggins'” or “The Wigginses”?
    Also, if I’m writing “The Wiggins family,” is that correct, or should it be “The Wiggins'” or “the Wigginses family”?
    Thank you.

  23. Patty Bonomo says:

    My nephew’s name is Davis.
    If we were to say, “Thank you for coming to Davis’ party,” would it be Davis’ or Davis’s?

  24. Dr G Shaw says:

    The French ambassador to Henry VIII’s court was Eustace Chapuys, with the final “s” unpronounced. Presumably we should refer to Chapuys’s letters?

  25. Joshua Sturdivant says:

    For a country western song, I need to blend a surname ending with s and is together in a running lyric.
    What would be the correct method of writing this? Is there one in existence?

    EXAMPLE:
    Jeff Cranes is going to go fishing.
    1. Jeff Cranes’ gonna go fishin.
    2. Jeff Cranes’s gonna go fishin.
    3. Jeff Cranes gonna go fishin.

    I would sure relish in a concrete verdict on how to write this; never minding the potential “if” factor.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      It is unclear to us whether the person’s name is Jeff Crane or Jeff Cranes. The lyric would work better if it is Crane.
      Jeff Crane’s gonna go fishin(g). (Although we do not recommend the use of “gonna” and “fishin’ ” in formal writing.)
      If the name is Jeff Cranes, the majority – if not all – of the people who hear it in the song will likely interpret it as singular (“Jeff Crane’s”), and you may want to rewrite the lyric.

  26. Carla Norris says:

    For a neon light-up wedding sign to be displayed at a wedding for two people getting married (obviously) with the last name Helms, does the sign read, “The Helmses”?

  27. H.S. says:

    Thanks for the explanations. If I wanted to refer to the son of Ed Jones, would I say “Ed Jones’s son” or “Ed Jones’ son”? In the second doesn’t that mean there are more than one of Ed Jones? Thanks.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      “Ed Jones’s son” is correct for the reason you stated; however, some writers and editors add only an apostrophe to all nouns ending in s and would write “Ed Jones’ son.” See Rule 1c of Apostrophes.

  28. W. says:

    How would you make something possessive if the word already ends with an apostrophe? In this case, I have a student writing a paper about Schwan’s Company, which is usually verbally referred to as just Schwan’s. So the student has some sentences like this: “Schwan’s’ values include quality, speed, and availability of its products in rural areas.” Is Schwan’s’ correct? Would not adding a second apostrophe be acceptable (i.e. Schwan’s history of customer service…), similar to how some people are okay with Silas’ hat instead of Silas’s hat? Thanks for your help!

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Some may argue that “Schwan’s’s values” could be technically correct; however, it looks awkward and confusing. Where possible, we recommend a rewrite to avoid the possessive case:
      “The values of Schwan’s include quality, speed, and availability of its products in rural areas.”

  29. Jordn says:

    For our sign at the wedding, the last name is Madriz. Is it “The Madriz’s” or “The Madrizes”?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      As the post states, “To form the plural of a last name that ends with a z, add an es.” Therefore, “The Madrizes” is correct.

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