English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

If I were to use the sentence "There are lots of John Smiths" in the world, would that be the correct use for saying that there are a lot of people named John Smith in the world?

I don't think there should be an apostrophe as that would imply ownership of something.

If my first example is correct, then what would you do if the name referenced already ended with an 's'?

share|improve this question
possible duplicate of Family Name Pluralization – FumbleFingers Aug 24 '11 at 17:11
up vote 15 down vote accepted

In order to pluralize a name, this guide says:

There are really just two rules to remember, whether you’re pluralizing a given (first) name or a surname (last name):

  1. If the name ends in s, sh, ch, x or z, add es.
  2. In every other case, add s.

Similarly, there are two fundamental no-no’s:

Never change a y to ies when pluralizing a name; and Never, ever use apostrophes!



  • The Flaherty’s live here.
  • The Flaherties live here.


  • The Flahertys live here.
  • Sandra’s two favorite boyfriends are Charleses.
  • There are seven Joneses in Stuart’s little black book—three of them Jennifers.
  • The Hopkinses are coming over for dinner tonight.

So your instinct is correct -- do not use an apostrophe as that indicates possession. Your first example would be:

There are a lot of John Smiths in the world.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, very useful to know. :) – Alex Aug 24 '11 at 9:15
Thanks to the others who responded as well. – Alex Aug 24 '11 at 9:26
Never use apostrophes? Sometimes I write Mind your p's and q's. Is that wrong? – GEdgar Aug 24 '11 at 15:26
Beautifully answered. – Akin Aug 24 '11 at 15:41
But I read on grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/plurals.htm the following: "When a proper noun ends in an "s" with a hard "z" sound, we don't add any ending to form the plural: "The Chambers are coming to dinner" (not the Chamberses); "The Hodges used to live here" (not the Hodgeses). There are exceptions even to this: we say "The Joneses are coming over," and we'd probably write "The Stevenses are coming, too." So is it: "the Williams" or "the Williamses"? – Peter Mar 21 '14 at 9:04

You are correct. That is how to make a name plural.

If you want to make a name ending in s plural then you can add es

There are lots of Barry Joneses in Wales

or you can just leave it off

Look at all the John Griffiths in the phone book

It depends on how easy it is to pronounce.

share|improve this answer
This is certainly the usage, but in theory your second example could mean 'more than one John Griffith' as well as 'more than one John Griffiths'. – TimLymington Aug 24 '11 at 15:57
@TimLymington: I think that ambiguity would be a small price to pay if it saves me having to pronounce Griffithses! :) – FumbleFingers Aug 24 '11 at 18:04

Yes, your example is correct, if a bit informal and potentially awkward-sounding.

When pluralizing names that end with an "s", you can generally put "es" on the end:

There are many Smiths in the world.
There are many Joneses in the world.

share|improve this answer

A correct sentence.. There are lots of Peters in this town.." 's" you probably meant the name of John Smith's you mean the name What John own..Although it is unnecessary grammatically you may say this and it will be true for the meaning when you place 'the name of'before it as it is above. but your second sentence makes it clear...It will be better if you only emphasize the name..

share|improve this answer

protected by RegDwigнt Mar 1 '12 at 9:54

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.