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Apostrophes with Names Ending in s, ch, or z

Are you confused about how to show the plural and the possessive of certain names? Maybe you know to write I met the Smiths, I drove Brenda Smith’s Ferrari, and I visited the Smiths’ house. But what if the name is Sanchez or Church or Williams?

Rule: To show the plural of a name that ends in s, ch, or z, add es.

The Sanchezes will be over soon.
The Thomases moved away.

Rule: To show singular possession of a name ending in ch or z, use the apostrophe and another s.

Harry Birch’s house
Mrs. Sanchez’s children

Rule: To show singular possession of a name ending in s, some writers add just an apostrophe. Others also add another s.

Bill Williams’ car OR Bill Williams’s car

Rule: To show plural possession of a name ending in s, ch, or z, form the plural first; then immediately use the apostrophe.

the Williamses’ car
the Birches’ house
the Sanchezes’ children


Pop Quiz

Choose the correct proper noun in each sentence below. The original proper noun is in parentheses.

1. I’m going to marry Ms. Straus’/Strauses’/Straus’s daughter. (Straus)

2. The Ortiz’/Ortizes’/Ortiz’s dog bit the mailman. (Ortiz)

3. My son can’t seem to get enough of Sandi Finches/Finches’/Finch’s fried chicken. (Finch)

4. The Ames/Amess/Ameses are coming home from vacation tomorrow. (Ames)


Pop Quiz Answers

1. I’m going to marry Ms. Straus’s daughter. (OR Ms. Straus’ daughter)

2. The Ortizes’ dog bit the mailman.

3. My son can’t seem to get enough of Sandi Finch’s fried chicken.

4. The Ameses are coming home from vacation tomorrow.

Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2009, at 9:17 am


23 Responses to “Apostrophes with Names Ending in s, ch, or z

  1. Billy Henderson says:

    Hi! I love this, now i can study for english in peace

  2. Anne Hintch says:

    Our last name is Hintch. I am working with an online card creator and they don’t use plural possessive apostrophes in their card examples. For our Christmas card shouldn’t it be: The Hintches’ Top 10 Moments of 2013 instead of The Hintches Top 10 Moments of 2013?

  3. Jeff says:

    Awesome; and funny! We had a question in some legal drafting on how to pluralize and possess the last name “Sanchez”. Had to laugh when we read the examples!

  4. Karen says:

    I am painting personalized items for Christmas, such as “The Hansons”. How do I punctuate names that end in ‘s’ such as Jones. In the past I have done “The Jones’” but I’m not sure that is right. Other times I painted “The Jones Family” to get around it!!

  5. Kim says:

    How about I appreciated Dr. Strichartz help in this matter. Strichartz’ Strichartzes’??

    • Jane says:

      To show singular possession of a name not ending in s (even if ending with an s sound, like your example) use the apostrophe and an s.
      I appreciated Dr. Strichartz’s help.
      To show singular possession of a name ending in s (such as Jones) some writers and editors add an apostrophe only (Jones’ car) and some add an apostrophe plus another s (Jones’s car).

  6. Vicky says:

    Please help me.

    I ordered a Christmas plaque for my sister and her husband which says

    Christmas at the Henderson’s

    Is the apostrophe correct? I thought there should be one.

    Any thoughts?

    Thank you.

    • Jane says:

      Since the plaque implies “Christmas at the Hendersons’ home,” you are correct that there should be an apostrophe. “Hendersons” refers to more than one person; therefore, the apostrophe should go after the s.

      Christmas at the Hendersons’

  7. Rus says:

    How do you punctuate possesion if the name ends with an s like Chris or Rus?

    • Jane says:

      There are conflicting rules about how to show possession when writing names that end in s. Some writers and editors add only an apostrophe to all nouns ending in s. And some add ’s to every proper noun. There is no right answer; the best advice is to choose a formula and stay consistent. You can write either Chris’ or Chris’s, Rus’ or Rus’s.

      • AJ says:

        Classically, it is not correct to just add an apostrophe to a last name that already ends in “s” if it is singular possessive. The logic is that all names should be treated the same. If it’s singular, whether a surname or first name, it should be apostrophe + “s.” I don’t care whether it’s James or John. Jones or Smith. If your talking about something that belongs to him, always add apostrophe “s.” For example, James’s bike. Mr. Jones’s house.

        • AJ says:

          Per the Modern Language Association, when “some writers” simply add an apostrophe after a singular proper noun ending in “s”, they are committing a stylistic error.

          • Jane says:

            Not all writers follow MLA format. There are many different formats and style manuals, each one with different rules and practices. For example, a writer for a newspaper or magazine may follow the Associated Press Stylebook whose rule is “Singular proper names ending in s: Use only an apostrophe.”

        • Jane says:

          As we mentioned in our reply to Rus, there are conflicting policies and theories about how to show possession when writing such nouns. There is no right answer; the best advice is to choose a formula and stay consistent.

  8. colleen says:

    My married last name is Drewes. I am trying to make a personalized plaque for the holidays. Would it read: Welcome to the Drewes’ Home ?????

  9. Sonja R. says:

    Hi–what would you do with “a fragment of Heraclitus(‘)”–keep the names original “s” and add the ‘? Add “s’s”? Simply say “…of Heraclitus”?


    • Jane says:

      You could write “a fragment of Heraclitus,” or “fragments of Heraclitus.” If you are referring to his writings in the possessive case, you could write either “Heraclitus’ fragments,” or “Heraclitus’s fragments.” Either is correct, just be consistent.

  10. sherry says:

    Can you answer this – Is it
    I Wanna’ Be Buzz’ Girl……
    I Wanna’ Be Buzz’s Girl….

    Thanks Jane

    • The grammatically correct way to write your sentence is “I want to be Buzz’s girl.” The word wanna is nonstandard, although it is acknowledged in some online dictionaries as a written form of “want to,” used informally.

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