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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


4 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 “‘”.

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