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Apostrophes with Names

Question: How do you form the plural of a proper noun that ends in y like Murphy? Should you change the name to Murphies as in I visited the Murphies yesterday?

Answer: No. Never change the spelling of a name to show the plural form.

Example: I visited the Murphys yesterday.

Question: How do you show possession for a name that ends in y?

Answer: To show singular possession, use the apostrophe and then the s.

Example: I petted Mrs. Murphy’s cat.

To show plural possession, always make the noun plural first, then use the apostrophe.

Example: I petted the Murphys’ cat.

Example: I visited the Murphys’ store on Main Street.

Posted on Thursday, October 22, 2009, at 10:01 am


6 Comments

6 Responses to “Apostrophes with Names”

  1. Karen T. says:

    I got one wrong on the quiz.
    We’ll be having dinner at the Jones’ house tonight.

    Shouldn’t that be Jones’s? I don’t understand why there would be an extra ‘e’ inserted when it’s not part of their name.
    I understand the phrase, “keeping up with the Joneses,” which implies trying to keep up with every member of the Jones family. The ‘es’ makes the word Jones plural.

    To that end, I read that when a proper name ends in an s, such as in the case of Jesus, for example, it is correct to simply add an apostrophe to the end of that name (as in Jesus’ garment) to imply the additional ‘s’ without adding it.

    • Jane says:

      Let’s take your second concern first. Among the authoritative English usage guides, there are conflicting policies and theories about how to show possession when writing nouns ending in s. Some would have you write Jesus’ and some Jesus’s. What you read is consistent with the Associated Press Stylebook which says add an apostrophe plus s to common nouns ending in s, but only a stand-alone apostrophe to proper nouns ending in s. My advice is to choose a method and be consistent.

      Now, let’s take up the matter of Jones’/Joneses’. Be careful to note whether you are dealing with a singular or plural situation. Does only Mr. or Ms. Jones live there or is it the Jones family, i.e., the Joneses? It’s apparent from the quiz question that it is the family’s house. Therefore, “We’ll be having dinner at the Joneses’ house tonight” (NOT the singular situation of Mr. Jones’ house or Mr. Jones’s house).

  2. Page H. says:

    Do I write The Smiths or The Smith’s on the back of my envelope? I’m not sure about the “‘”.

  3. Tina M. says:

    I design quite a few different craft projects and I am incorporating names quite often. I consider myself good at spelling and punctuation, but recently I realized I am very confused about the correct way to punctuate names on such items.

    For example. I made a sign that was for the Stacy family. I had put “The Stacy’s”, but now after someone brought it to my attention, it may be incorrect, but no one else had ever mentioned anything about it, not even my friend the ‘grammar/spelling monitor’. I guess, I was thinking, it was saying, as a given, that this was the Stacy’s home. ???

    I have read from your site, trying to figure it out and am still not quite sure. Is there more than one answer?

    • The plural form for the Stacy family is the Stacys. Now is where your question “Is there more than one answer?” comes in. It’s a matter of interpreting what your sign means. It depends on whether you mean “The Staceys (live here),” or do you mean “(this is) The Staceys’ (home)”? The former is a simple plural, while the latter is plural possessive.

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