The Grammarphobia Blog

Keeping up with the Joneses

Q: I believe you once told a caller on public radio that Joneses’ is the possessive of Jones. I’ve always believed that you should add an ‘s to a word that ends in s to form the possessive. Isn’t Joneses the plural while Jones’s is the possessive?

A: I don’t recall the show, but you may have misunderstood me. Also, Jones’s and Joneses’ are pronounced the same way, which may have contributed to the confusion. Here’s how to form the possessive of a name that ends in s.

You add ‘s to a singular name that ends in s: “Mr. Jones’s boss sent him a Christmas card.” But if you’re talking about more than one Jones, you add es to make the name plural and an apostrophe to make it possessive: “The Joneses’ Christmas card had a picture of the whole family, including the two yellow Labs.”

The same is true for the possessive plural of any word that ends in a hissing, shushing, or buzzing sound (s, sh, ch, x. or z). You add es to make the word plural, and then add an apostrophe to make it possessive.

I hope this clears things up.

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