My last name is Smith. How do I make that plural? What if I need to make it possessive? And how do I know what I need? If you’re trying to address wedding or baby shower invitations or this year’s Christmas card, you likely want to know how to correctly write your last name in context.
I’m frequently asked this question, by friends with a variety of last names. The rules are simple, but they adjust slightly depending on the name. I have friends with the last name Davis. Do they just add an s? It looks silly. And what about my friends whose last name is Hess? Those double s’s seem confusing at first glance.
Let’s take a look at these last names in a few scenarios because they show a pattern for most common last names. You’ll then be able to insert your name in the examples and determine correct usage.
How Do You Make a Last Name Plural?
Add es for name endings in s or z. For everything else, simply add s.
Just like you would with any common noun, for example, cat, you add an s to make cats. So Smith becomes Smiths if you want to mean more than one. Let’s give you another example that ends in a vowel. It’s still the same, simple rule. McBride becomes McBrides. That sounds easy, right?
My friends, the Davis family, however, need to add an es to make their last name plural: Davises. So do my friends, the Jones family: Joneses. And my friends with the last name Hess? They add an es too: Hesses, because you wouldn’t have three sss’s in a row.
No matter your last name, the first step to making it plural is to add either s or es. DO NOT add an apostrophe.
This rule is perfect to follow when you’re addressing wedding invitations, for instance. The return address would be from the family (more than one person), such as: The Davises or The Hesses. Mine would say The Smiths. My neighbors’ correspondence would say The McBrides.
When Do You Make a Last Name Singular Possessive?
Simple: if you want to show one person owns something, make it (possess)ive (the answer lies in the word). Let’s go back to our cat example because we all know that one. Simply add ‘s to the noun. Example: The cat’s favorite toy is a mouse.
Now let’s use that with our name examples. In these instances, the possessive is for one invidual. Examples: Kerry Smith’s favorite dessert is pie. Shanna McBride’s favorite dessert is ice cream. Heather Davis’s favorite dessert is cake. Barbara Jones’s favorite dessert is pudding. Andrea Hess’s favorite dessert is cookies. Following our pattern, simply insert your name to personalize for you–one person.
How Do You Make Last Names Plural Possessive?
But sometimes the whole family owns something, so we want to make the last name plural possessive. How do we do that?
Example: The Smiths’ favorite pie is peach. Collectively, it’s our favorite, so we first make our last name plural, then we simply add the apostrophe. The McBrides’ favorite ice cream is also peach.
The Davises’ favorite cake is chocolate. The Joneses’ favorite pudding is tapioca. The Hesses’ favorite cookies are peanut butter. Now, let me introduce you to another friend Barbara Jones. Her last name would be
Now let’s make this concept applicable to something you might write. Say you’re making a family cookbook. What might your title say to include all of you (plural possessive)?
Mine would be something like The Smiths’ Gourmet Goodies. (My husband really is a fantastic cook; but I’d be happy to write the cookbook.)
Other examples include The Davises’ Daily Recipes, The Joneses’ Million-Dollar Dinners, The Hesses’ Homemade Favorites, or The McBrides’ Delicious Dinners.
Still Confused about Plural and Possessive Last Names?
You can always skirt the issue by adding the word family. The Davises become the Davis Family. The Joneses are, of course, the Jones family. The Hesses become the Hess Family or the Hess Family’s Wedding Party. On a return address, be sure to capitalize The because it becomes part of a title. The Smith Family, address, zip, etc.
What to Avoid When Writing Plural or Possessive Last Names
Don’t fall into the trap of making the name possessive when it shouldn’t be. Don’t add the apostrophe unless you really mean it. We all see incorrect examples everywhere: Welcome to the Smith’s, for instance. Take that apostrophe out of there! Think of the substitute: Welcome to the Smith Home. The only time you would add the apostrophe is for possession: Welcome to Kerry Smith’s Home or Cole and Kerry Smiths’ Home. So if we’re making signs, for instance, we’d say: Welcome to the Smiths, Welcome to the McBrides, Welcome to the Davises, Welcome to the Joneses, Welcome to the Hesses.
I hope this post has helped you clear up a grammar issue and punctuation issue that becomes more clear as you study and correctly use it. Whether you’re making craft signs, addressing invitations or Christmas cards, you’ll most likely want to do it correctly–and you can! Just give it some thought and go for it!
You Might Also Want to Read . . .
This popular post tells you more about plurals for family, families, family’s, families’–in case you’re still confused about when to add that apostrophe.
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