How can I refer collectively to a group of people with the same name, for example:

Having so many Johns around is confusing.


Having so many John's around is confusing.

Which one is the correct usage? Or should I only refer to them as "people named John"?

This could be somewhat compounded when surnames are used, if the pluralized version is also common.

  • Simple rule of thumb: if you want a plural, don't use an apostrophe. Apostrophe-s is for possessives.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 20:29
  • 2
    @JPmiaou: A thousand of p's and q's would beg to differ. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 20:40
  • rules of thumb have generally have exceptions.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 5:06
  • Dratted thing won't let me edit my comment; the first 'have' is of course extraneous.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 5:27
  • And "its" is possessive while "it's" is not possessive but instead is the contraction of "it is".
    – medley56
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 21:47

2 Answers 2


Johns is fine (if a bit unfortunate in its implications for that particular name). John's means "belonging to John".

  • So what about pluralization that changes the spelling? e.g. "I know way to many Shelbies" or "Emilies are always nice people" or "I like all Timothies".
    – medley56
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 21:49
  • @medley56: Bad. Shelbys, Emilys, and Timothys.
    – chaos
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 14:34

As evidenced by the common phrase "keeping up with the Joneses", simply pluralizing, even if the name is already theoretically in a plural form, is the way to go.

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