How to Make a Last Name Plural or Possessive – Rules & Examples

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Every year I receive Christmas cards, and like clockwork, at least one of them uses an apostrophe -s to donate a plural last name.

Although this may seem cringe-worthy to a grammarian, the confusion is understandable. Making a last name plural or possessive can be a little tricky, but if you can remember a few simple rules, you’ll avoid the common mistakes that so many people make.

Review our guide below, learn how to create plurals and possessives of last names, and never make a Holiday Greeting gaffe again.

Proper Noun Review

Proper nouns provide a specific name for a person, place, or thing. Unlike common nouns, they are always capitalized.

A person’s last name, or surname, is a proper noun since it defines a specific person.

For example:

  • My neighbors, the Hughs, invited us to a dinner party.

How to Make a Last Name Plural

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To make something plural means to make it represent more than one. In this case, it represents more than one person with the same last name or multiple members of the same family.

A few simple rules help you remember how to make a last name plural.

Plural Rule #1: Never use an apostrophe -s

The first rule to remember about creating a plural last name is “never use an apostrophe -s.” An apostrophe -s shows ownership of something, not multiples of something.

Plural Rule #2: Add -s to names ending in a consonant

If the name ends in a consonant, create a plural using the addition of -s at the end of the name.

For example:

  • McLeod becomes McLeods.
  • Glanton becomes Glantons.

Let’s use these in a sentence to indicate the use of more than one family member:

  • Happy Holidays from the McLeods.
  • The Glantons wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Plural Rule #3: Add -es to names ending in an -s or -z

If the name already ends in an -s, simply add an -es to create a plural form of the name.

For example:

  • Davis becomes Davises.
  • Edwards becomes Edwardses.
  • Lopez becomes Lopezes.

If you understandably find words like Edwardses a little too awkward, consider rewording to avoid the plural. For instance, the Edwardses can become the Edwards family or the Edwards household. Let’s take a look at how we can use these in a sentence:

  • The Davises cordially invite you to the 10th Annual New Year’s Eve Swap Meet.
  • Happy Birthday from the Edwards family!

Plural Rule #4: Add -s to names ending in a Vowel

If the name ends in a vowel, create a plural using the addition of -s at the end of the name.

For example, 

  • Serra becomes Serras
  • Avila becomes Avilas

Let’s use these in a sentence to indicate the use of more than one family member:

  • The Serras have invited you to Michael’s First Birthday Party!
  • Avilas Towing and Garage is the best business to take your vehicle to. 

Plural Rule #5: Do not change y to -ies to make a last name plural

There is one important way in which plural last names differ from other plurals: the last syllable of names ending in y does not become -ies when made plural. The members of the Kennedy and the Clancy families are the Kennedys and the Clancys, not the Kennedies and the Clancies.

How to Make a Last Name Possessive

A possessive proper noun shows the specific ownership of something. To make a last name possessive, simply add an apostrophe -s to the end.

For example:

  • We went to a BBQ and pool party at the Kaney’s house last Saturday.

Last names that already end in an -s allow you to choose how you show possession.

You can add an apostrophe -s after the name.

For example:

  • I am substituting for Mr. Mares’s class tomorrow afternoon.

Or, you can choose to add an apostrophe after the -s to make it possessive.

For example:

  • Mrs. Jones’ bread recipe always wins the State Fair.

How to Make Last Names Plural Possessive

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Plural possession indicates multiple people own something. Creating plural possessions out of last names is as simple as following the steps above and applying them to the last name.

First, make the name plural:

  • Howell becomes Howells.
  • Lynskey becomes Lynskeys.
  • Jones becomes Joneses.

Second, apply possession using an apostrophe at the end of the name:

  • Howells’
  • Lynskeys’
  • Joneses’ (or Jones’)

Now, let’s use these in a sentence:

  • Every summer, the Howells’ families spend a week on the beach together.
  • The Lynskeys’ construction companies offer home builds from start to finish.
  • Our neighborhood park was donated by the Joneses’ grant monies.

These sentences show that the objects of the sentence belong to more than one member of the same family.

There are a few more rules you can apply to plural possession concerning the use of more than one last name.

Multiple Names, Same Ownership

When explaining that more than one person owns the same object, only the last noun in the list requires the plural possessive form.

For example:

  • The David and Marins’ family timeshares were all located in the Florida Keys.
  • The Holiday cards were a compilation of the Pinon, Sosa, and Sanchezes’ neighborhood businesses.

Multiple Names, Multiple Ownership

If two or more plural names have different ownership, each name requires the plural possessive form.

For example:

  • The Davids’ and Marins’ New Year invites both arrived in the mail today.
  • Holiday cards were sent out by the Pinons’, Sosas’, and Sanchezes’ businesses.

Let’s Review

  • Plural names are simply created using a simple addition of an -s to the end of the name. This is used to show multiple members of the same family.
  • Possessive names are created by adding an apostrophe -s to the end of the name to show ownership of something.
  • Plural possessive names are created by first making the name plural and then adding possession through the addition of an apostrophe.

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