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In the picture below:

1) are there two Mercedeses?


2) are there two Mercedes?

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Can we infer from this nGram that the plural noun "Mercedeses" is a disused word, hence the sentence 2) is considered correct?

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Follow-up question: what's the plural of "Mercedes Benz"? of "Lexus"? –  200_success Jun 13 '12 at 8:34

2 Answers 2

The general convention is for a proper noun (Mercedes, in this case) ends with an "s", we don't add anything to form the plural. So the correct answer is "Are there two Mercedes?"

Reference: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/plurals.htm

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There are always exceptions of course. One still keeps up with the Joneses. Perhaps it's just polysyllabic words which don't get -es added. –  Andrew Leach Jun 12 '12 at 22:44
The site you cite says this: "When a proper noun ends in an "s" with a hard "z" sound, we don't add any ending to form the plural" [emphasis added]. So perhaps it becomes a matter of whether Mercedes is pronounced with an "s" or "z"? @AndrewLeach: that same site mentions "Joneses" as an exception to that rule. –  J.R. Jun 12 '12 at 22:46
@J.R. I believe this rule generally doesn't apply to single-syllable proper nouns (like "Jones", "Chaz", "Ganz") unless they're names that sound like they're already plurals (like "Johns", "Toms"). –  Peter Shor Jun 12 '12 at 23:34
How would I explain to a non-native-speaker why "Johns" sounds like a plural, but "Jones" doesn't? –  user16269 Jun 13 '12 at 0:02
Explain it's because "John", "Tom" are common English nouns, whereas "Jone" is not (the homonym "Joan" is, but that apparently doesn't apply with this rule, so "sounds like" apparently was the wrong phrasing). If they can't distinguish common English nouns from other words, explain it really doesn't matter if they get this wrong; they should be understood anyway. –  Peter Shor Jun 13 '12 at 1:17

What's going on is that words that end in unstressed /i:z/ in English do not normally gain anything when inflected for the plural, the possessive, or both. That’s also why a plural possessive only gets one marker, not two.

Both inflections add /əz/ to the word, but dups are suppressed. The /i:z/ also suppresses the addition of an /əz/.

  • two species
  • this species’ name
  • both species’ names
  • the series’ final episode
  • both series are great
  • both series’ finales sucked
  • Achilles’ rage
  • Ulysses’ son Telemachus
  • Eratosthenes’ sieve
  • Mercedes’ best car
  • both Mercedes are swell
  • both Mercedes’ batteries are missing

You might think trapeze is an exception, but it’s stressed. This law of suppression of inflectional /əz/ only operates when there is a terminal unstressed /i:z/, not a stressed one.

For some speakers a terminal /əz/ also suppresses the addition of another inflectional one. For other speakers, it does not -- which is what leads to dialect spellings of things like the farmerses fields or tasty fisheses. Gollum!

However, for all standard speaker it will suppress an additional /əz/ just to make it possessive if already plural. So both church’s and churches and churches’ are all pronounced the same, and theres no such thing as the churcheses taxes.

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Nice answer, but "Achilles' tendon" is wrong. As Robusto said "We don't use an apostrophe because the tendon and heel in question do not belong to Achilles the slayer of Hector in the Iliad, but to someone else. The name "Achilles" is a noun functioning as an adjective in that sentence." –  user19148 Jun 13 '12 at 7:52
See my question "Achilles tendon and Achilles heel" here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/63199/… –  user19148 Jun 13 '12 at 9:04
@Carlo_R. The OED explicitly mentions Achilles’ heel as a genitive construct that has co-existed along with the attributive one without the apostrophe ever since it started being used. Whether it is the preferred form or not is immaterial to the point that the genitive is not reflected in pronunciations because of its final /i:z/ suppressing an additional /əz/. I could have said Achilles’ lover and the point would remain. –  tchrist Jun 13 '12 at 11:09
/izɨz/ is also used for the possessive of words ending in /iz/, though. –  Mechanical snail Sep 17 '12 at 7:56

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