Is it grammatically incorrect to make a surname plural, without making it possessive? Or is it merely informal? (For example, "The Smiths are coming along, too," or "The Petersons are a very pleasant family.) Most people use this sort of language all the time. I've been studying grammar for years, but never have I come across a rule that states this as either incorrect or correct.

  • Welcome to EL&U. Please see Pluralization of names, Family name pluralization, and How do I pluralize a name ending in “y”? and their many related questions. – choster Feb 15 '17 at 18:57
  • 4
    It is grammatically incorrect to use the possessive form when not speaking of something possessive, whether the (non-)owner is referenced by surname or not. Don't go around sticking apostrophes where they don't belong. :-) – Hellion Feb 15 '17 at 19:00
  • @Hellion I'm kinda thinking apostrophes are a matter of orthography not of grammar. Nobody's going to hear whether you would write it with an apostrophe or not. ;) – tchrist Mar 18 '17 at 2:14

You can absolutely pluralize surnames without making them possessive. Apostrophes aren't needed in pluralization without possession. When you pluralize a name, you are pluralizing a noun. Most of the time, rules for pluralizing common nouns work the same way for proper nouns. (Add an -s or -es as is appropriate.) Example 1: There are four people in the Smith family. Together, they are the Smiths. Example 2: There are four people in the Jones family. Together, they are the Joneses.

If a name ends in a vowel, the rules can be a little bit different than with common nouns. Just remember that you should never change someone's name. You add to it to pluralize it, but the root (the name) remains unchanged. (Don't change -y to -ies, etc.) Example 1: The Rosetti family becomes the Rosettis. Example 2: The Murphy family becomes the Murphys.

  • Thank you very much! That completely answered my question. I was wondering mainly because surnames pluralized are always marked as incorrect with the spell-check features on my PC, but I guess they are indeed fine. Thanks! – user218465 Feb 16 '17 at 13:13
  • You're welcome! I'm glad I answered your question. Spell-check and autocorrect can be lifesavers, but they can also be so irritating! – NenyaQueen Feb 16 '17 at 17:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy