Possessives of Names Ending in “S”: Chris’ or Chris’s? Harris’ or Harris’s?

Summary

Form the possessive of a name ending in s either by adding an apostrophe and another s (Chris’s phone, Harris’s car, James’s boat) or by adding just an apostrophe (Chris’ phone, Harris’ car, James’ boat). Style manuals differ in their recommendations: the Chicago Manual of Style, APA Publication Manual, and MLA Handbook recommend an apostrophe and additional s, while the AP Stylebook suggests adding just the apostrophe.

For plural possessives of family names, always insert the apostrophe after the final s of the plural (the Williamses’ car, the Harrises’ house, the Joneses’ cat).

Possessives of names ending in S

To form the possessive of a name ending in s (like Chris, Harris, James, Charles) add either an apostrophe and s or just the apostrophe. Both styles are acceptable in formal writing.

Examples
  • We borrowed Chris’s boat, James’s house, and Harris’s car for our vacation.
  • or
  • We borrowed Chris’ boat, James’ house, and Harris’ car for our vacation.

Style guides differ in their recommendations. The Chicago Manual of Style, APA Publication Manual, and MLA Handbook recommend adding an apostrophe and another s, consistent with how possessives in general are formed.

Examples
  • We rented Chris’s house for the summer.
  • Have you seen James’s new boat?
  • Jesus’s return to Galilee is written about in the Gospel of John.
  • Anita’s and Agnes’s books are on the table.
  • Charles’s computer isn’t working.
  • Is this Charles Dickens’s house?
  • What are Kamala Harris’s views on immigration?

The AP Stylebook and AMA Manual of Style recommend adding just an apostrophe and no additional s (like you would with plural nouns).

Examples
  • Chris’ computer
  • James’ house
  • Jesus’ teachings
  • Agnes’ books
  • Charles’ boat
  • Charles Dickens’ novels
  • Kamala Harris’ education

Additional s only if pronounced

Some writers add another s after the apostrophe only if the additional letter would actually be pronounced while speaking. For example, many people pronounce the possessive of Chris, Jesus, and Dickens without an extra s sound.

Examples
  • Chris’ computer isn’t working.
  • Jesus’ return to Galilee is written about in the Gospel of John.
  • We visited Charles Dickens’ house in London.
  • Ares’ numerous offspring are often alluded to in Greek mythology.

But many people do add an additional s sound to form possessives of names like Harris and Dennis.

Examples
  • Harris’s sister is a political analyst.
  • Jonas’s bag is lost.
  • I met Dennis’s editor in Amsterdam.

Possessives of names ending in a silent S

The possessive of a name ending in a silent, unpronounced s can also be formed either by adding an apostrophe and another s or just an apostrophe. The Chicago Manual of Style recommends adding an s after the apostrophe.

Examples

Other style manuals, such as the APA Publication Manual and the AP Stylebook, suggest adding only an apostrophe (and no additional s).

Examples
  • Camus’ novels
  • Arkansas’ capital

Possessives of biblical and classical names

By convention, possessives of biblical and classical names two syllables or longer and ending in s are formed by simply adding an apostrophe, instead of an apostrophe and another s.

Examples
  • Jesus’ teachings
  • Achilles’ heel
  • Moses’ laws
  • Socrates’ ideals

Such exceptions, however, are going out of style. The Chicago Manual of Style and MLA Handbook, for instance, now recommend adding an apostrophe and s to form the possessive of all singular nouns, including Jesus: Jesus’s teachings.

Possessives of plural family names

Family names (like Jones) are pluralized to refer to more than one person. To form the plural, add an s or es: the Smiths, the Dalys, the Patels, the Harrises, the Dickenses, the Joneses. Then, to form the possessive of this plural, simply add an apostrophe after the s, as you would for any other plural word.

Examples
  • the Patels’ cats
  • the Dalys’ rats
  • the Harrises’ bats
  • the Joneses’ hats
Caution

Be careful about where you insert the apostrophe.

Example
  • Nick Jones’ hat or Nick Jones’s hat
    but
    the Joneses’ hats

Since “Joneses” is the plural of “Jones,” the apostrophe must always follow the final s.

Example
  • Incorrect: the Jones’ hats
    Incorrect: the Jones’s hats
    Incorrect: the Jonese’s hats
    Correct: the Joneses’ hats
    To refer to the entire family, form the plural by adding es, and then add an apostrophe for the possessive.

Possessives of names ending in X or Z

Possessives of names ending in sibilant sounds like x or z are formed as usual: by adding an apostrophe and s. This is the style recommended by major style guides like the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook.

Examples
  • Marx’s theories
  • Alex’s letters
  • Diaz’s hairstyle
  • Liz’s books

The possessive of a plural family name is formed like that of other plurals: add an s to form the plural, then place an apostrophe after.

Examples

Possessives of names of countries and other places

The possessive of a place name is usually formed by adding an apostrophe and s (as with any other name).

Examples
  • Nepal’s mountain ranges
  • France’s vineyards

To form the possessive of a country or place name that already ends in s, follow the same rules as those for people’s names.

Examples
  • James’ mother is a member of Texas’ senate.
    or
    James’s mother is a member of Texas’s senate.
    Either style is fine, as long as you stay consistent.

However, if a place or country name is plural, simply add an apostrophe at the end (without an additional s).

Examples
  • the United States’ relationship with China
  • the Philippines’ music industry
Caution

Never add an additional s to form the possessive of a place name that is plural, regardless of which style guide you follow.

Example
  • Incorrect: the United States’s representatives
    Correct: the United States’ representatives

Examples from published content

Here are some examples from literature and published content that show how possessives of names ending in s can be formed by adding an apostrophe and another s.

Examples
  • Prince Charles’s confidential communications will remain just that.
    — “What Might Price Charles’s Letters Reveal?” BBC News (Nov. 24, 2014)
  • He tied Jesus’s teachings to his call for higher taxes on the wealthy.
    — “At Prayer Breakfast, Obama Issues Call for Humility,” New York Times (Feb. 7, 2013)
  • Such were Mr Segundus’s thoughts as he entered the Close and stood before the great brooding blue shadow of the Cathedral’s west face.
    Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004)
  • I assure you it is much larger than Sir William Lucas’s.
    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Chris’s visit to the Hewett country estate follows soon after.
    — David Denby, “Game Playing,” New Yorker (Jan. 9, 2006)

And here are some sentences that show how names ending in s can also be formed simply by adding an apostrophe.

Examples
  • He noted that he had scolded Chris for having their 88-year-old mother, Matilda, visiting Chris’ home two weeks ago.
    — “CNN’s Cuomo, with Coronavirus, Completes Show from Basement,” AP News (Mar. 31, 2020)
  • I try to live my life by Jesus’ teachings.
    — “A Terrible Use of the Good Book,” Guardian (Dec. 16, 2009)
  • This organization probably was the last event of the Hebrew leader Moses’ life.
    — “The origin and development of biblical covenants: Judaism,” Encyclopedia Britannica (Accessed July 6, 2022)

Quick Quiz

Which is correct?
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Which is the correct possessive of the family name Williams?
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Which is correct?
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Which is correct?
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Did You Know?

Using or omitting the serial comma can affect meaning.
Know more:Serial or Oxford Comma: When Is It Used?