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Plural and Possessive Forms with Names Ending in y

How do you form the plural of a proper noun that ends in y such as Murphy? Should you change the name to Murphies? Given how other English words ending in y form their plurals, you would think so.
Examples:
puppy / puppies
army / armies
supply / supplies

However, proper nouns are not pluralized the same way common nouns are.
Rule: Do not change the spelling of a name to make it plural. Instead, just add s.
Examples:
I visited the Murphys last weekend.
We have two Zacharys in our office.

What if you want to show possession with a name that ends in y?
Rule: To show singular possession, use the apostrophe and then the s.
Example: I petted Mrs. Murphy’s cat.

Rule: To show plural possession, make the proper noun plural first, then use the apostrophe.
Examples:
I petted the Murphys’ cat.
I visited the Murphys’ store on Main Street.

Rule: To show the plural of a name that ends in s, ch, or z, add es.
Examples:
The Sanchezes will be over soon.
The Thomases moved away.

 

Pop Quiz

1. I wish I had known the Kennedys/Kennedies/Kennedy’s better.
2. I know three Mary’s/Marys who live in Bangkok.
3. Mary’s/Marys dog is very friendly.
4. If the Kennedies’/Kennedys’/Kennedy’s home comes up for sale, I will buy it.
5. If Mrs. Kennedys’/Kennedy’s home comes up for sale, I will buy it.
6. Are the Church’es/Churches/Churche’s your friends?

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. I wish I had known the Kennedys better.
2. I know three Marys who live in Bangkok.
3. Mary’s dog is very friendly.
4. If the Kennedys’ home comes up for sale, I will buy it.
5. If Mrs. Kennedy’s home comes up for sale, I will buy it.
6. Are the Churches your friends?

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Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2007, at 2:17 pm


Apostrophes with Words Ending in s

While normal people wonder about apostrophes in general, believe it or not, word nerds have heated arguments over whether to use an additional s with singular possession.

Rule 1: Many common nouns end in the letter s (lens, cactus, bus, etc.). So do a lot of proper nouns (Mr. Jones, Texas, Christmas). 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.
Some writers and editors add ‘s to every proper noun, be it Hastings’s or Jones’s. And there are a few who add only an apostrophe to all nouns ending in s—however, this method is relatively rare, and not recommended here.
One method, common in newspapers and magazines, is to add an apostrophe plus s (-’s) to common nouns ending in s, but only a stand-alone apostrophe to proper nouns ending in s.

Examples:
the class’s hours
Mr. Jones’ golf clubs
The canvas’s size
Texas’ weather

Another widely used technique is to write the word as we would speak it. For example, since most people saying, “Mr. Hastings’ pen” would not pronounce an added s, we would write Mr. Hastings’ pen with no added s. But most people would pronounce an added s in “Jones’s,” so we’d write it as we say it: Mr. Jones’s golf clubs. This method explains the punctuation of for goodness’ sake.

Rule 2: To show plural possession of a word ending in an s or s sound, form the plural first; then immediately use the apostrophe.

Examples:
the classes’ hours
the Joneses’ car
guys’ night out
two actresses’ roles

 

Pop Quiz
Place the apostrophe (and perhaps an s) where appropriate.

1. The classes opinions were predictable according to their grade levels.
2. The boss suit was brand new.
3. The bus steering wheel was wearing out.
4. The Crosses dog bit the mailman.
5. We understand Lagos airport handled over one million passengers last year.
6. The Smiths boat sank.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. The classes’ opinions were predictable according to their grade levels.
2. The boss’s suit was brand new.
3. The bus’s steering wheel was wearing out.
4. The Crosses’ dog bit the mailman.
5. We understand Lagos’s (OR Lagos’) airport handled over one million passengers last year.
6. The Smiths’ boat sank.

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Posted on Friday, January 26, 2007, at 1:26 am


Apostrophes

When asked what the most common English usage error is, I don’t have to think hard. The “winning” mistake is the misuse of the apostrophe, especially with its/it’s.

First, let’s get rid of a myth: There is no such thing as its’. Why? Because its’ would be meaningless. If its’ existed, it would be indicating plural possession. First of all, it is always singular. Second, its without an apostrophe is the possessive form.
Example: The dog hurt its paw.

The word it’s is a contraction for it is or it has.
Examples:
It’s a shame that the dog hurt its paw.
It’s always been there.

Now, we can look at more apostrophe rules.

Rule: To show possession by one person, use an apostrophe and add an s.
Examples:
girl’s hat (one girl who owns a hat)
girl’s hats (one girl who owns more than one hat)
woman’s dress (one woman who owns a dress)
woman’s dresses (one woman with more than one dress)

Rule: To show plural possession, make the noun plural first; then add an apostrophe.
Examples:
The girls’ hats flew off in the wind. (more than one girl, each with a hat)
The women’s dresses matched their shoes. (more than one woman, each with matching shoes)

Notice that women’s was not an exception. The noun was made plural first and then the apostrophe was added. The only difference is that the plural of woman doesn’t end in an s.
Examples:
one boy’s book, two boys’ books
one man’s jacket, two men’s jackets
one lass’s hat, two lasses’ hats

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Posted on Wednesday, November 1, 2006, at 9:09 pm