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Pluralizing Last Names: Never Use an Apostrophe

Pluralizing Last Names: Never Use an Apostrophe

One way in which nouns differ from other grammatical forms in the English language is grammatical number. Prototypical English nouns have both singular and plural forms. The holiday season often causes problems for English users when mailing out seasonal cards. While some last names are easy to pluralize (Johnson becomes Johnsons), others are trickier (Does Cleary become Clearies or Clearys?). with the following guide.

Surname Spelling Rules

To form the plural of most surnames in English, simply add the suffix -s to the end of the name. Note that names that end in -lf do not follow the same rule as other regular nouns (change the -f to a -v and add -es) but rather simply take an -s. For example, the following list includes the singular and plural forms of some common last names:

  • Anderson – Andersons
  • Baker – Bakers
  • Campbell – Campbells
  • Clark – Clarks
  • Defoe – Defoes
  • Garcia – Garcias
  • Goldberg – Goldbergs
  • Gray – Grays
  • Hall – Halls
  • Howard – Howards
  • Kim – Kims
  • King – Kings
  • Lee – Lees
  • Li – Lis
  • Long – Longs
  • Patel – Patels
  • Petrov – Petrovs
  • Shea – Sheas
  • Silverberg – Silverbergs
  • Smith – Smiths
  • Thompson – Thompsons
  • White – Whites
  • Wilson – Wilsons
  • Wolf – Wolfs
  • Wu – Wus
  • Zelenak – Zelenaks

For most nouns that end in a final y preceded by a consonant, the y changes to an i followed by the ­es suffix. However, for all surnames that end in a y, simply add the suffix -s to the end of the name. For example, the following list includes the singular and plural forms of some common last names that end in consonant and y:

  • Avery – Averys
  • Chowdhury – Chowdhurys
  • Duffy – Duffys
  • Fernsby – Fernsbys
  • Gregory – Gregorys
  • Kelly – Kellys
  • Kennedy – Kennedys
  • McCarthy – McCarthys
  • Montgomery – Montgomerys
  • Murphy – Murphys
  • Perry – Perrys
  • Petrovsky – Petrovskys
  • Terry – Terrys

For surnames that end in an -s, -z, -x, -ch, or -sh and [s], [z], [š], or [č] sound, add the suffix -es to the end of the name. For example:

  • Aarons – Aaronses
  • Beach – Beaches
  • Bush – Bushes
  • Chuks – Chukses
  • Church – Churches
  • Collins – Collinses
  • Das – Dases
  • Diaz – Diazes
  • Felix – Felixes
  • Fox – Foxes
  • Ghosh – Ghoshes
  • Gonzalez – Gonzalezes
  • Holz – Holzes
  • Jaz – Jazes
  • Jones – Joneses
  • Ramirez – Ramirezes
  • Rogers – Rogerses
  • Ross – Rosses
  • Vasquez – Vasquezes

For surnames that end in a -ch and [k] sound, add the suffix -s to the end of the name. For example:

  • Albach – Albachs
  • Bach – Bachs
  • Dallenbach – Dallenbachs
  • Dietrich – Dietrichs
  • Emmerich – Emmerichs
  • Freidrich – Freidrichs
  • Heinrich – Heinrichs
  • Koch – Kochs
  • Reich – Reichs

For surnames that end in a silent -x, add the suffix -s to the end of the name. For example:

  • Babineaux – Babineauxs
  • Brasseaux – Brasseauxs
  • Couteaux – Couteauxs
  • Delcroix – Delcroixs
  • Devereaux – Devereauxs
  • Robichaux – Robichauxs
  • Thibodeaux – Thibodeauxs

Apostrophes

For the most part, pluralizing surnames in the English language follows the same rules as pluralizing other nouns. One common mistake that many writers make when pluralizing a last name is to use an apostrophe. However, in the English language, the affixation of the possessive clitic (‘s [apostrophe s] or s’ [s apostrophe]) forms a possessive noun, not a plural. Never use an apostrophe to form the plural of a surname. Never!

Similar to regular nouns, last names that end an -s, -z, -x, -ch, or -sh and [s], [z], [š], or [č] sound take the suffix -es to form the plural. For all other surnames including names that end in a consonant and y, -ch and [k] sound, and silent -x, simply add the suffix -s to the end of the name. If in doubt of a plural form of a last name, try the alternative The X Family as in The Johnson Family, which requires no pluralization. And never, ever use an apostrophe to create the plural form of a surname.

See also Regular Plural Nouns in English, Types of English Affixes: Derivational and Inflectional Prefixes and Suffixes, and Possessive Nouns in English.

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