It is well known that "Green et al." can be used to refer to the authors of a paper. Assuming that the number of authors is greater than three, can one use "Green, Grey et al." to explicitly list two authors' last names to refer to all authors?

  • You can list as many items as you want (though it gets silly to go beyond 4 or so). Just note that modern convention is to NOT use "and" between items in the list (and especially not before "et al"), as "et' means "and". One might, eg, list three "primary" authors and then use "et al" for the remaining contributors to an article.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 31, 2017 at 2:23

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can use more than one name, but generally you wouldn't need to do this unless it would be ambiguous otherwise.

For example, say there's a study by Green, Gray, Brown, and Black, and another study by Green, White, Orange, and Blue. Then you might say, "Green, Gray, et al." for the first and "Green, White, et al." for the second.

Also: Remember that et alia/et al. is Latin for 'and others', which is plural. So you always have to use it to replace at least two names.

This usage guide has examples of the exact case we're talking about: Using two authors before "et al." in order to avoid ambiguity:


  • 1
    This is all correct, except that at al. can (and must) stand for et alii in this case, for alia means 'other things' (neuter plural), alii 'other people' (masculine/common plural). Oct 30, 2017 at 19:03
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