Form the possessive of a name ending in s (like Chris, Charles, Harris, or James) by adding either an apostrophe and s or just an apostrophe. Both styles are acceptable in formal writing.
- Correct: We borrowed Chris’s boat, Charles’s house, and Harris’s car for our vacation.
- Correct: We borrowed Chris’ boat, Charles’ house, and Harris’ car for our vacation.
Style manuals 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.
- Charles’s computer isn’t working.
- What are Kamala Harris’s views on immigration?
- 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.
- Is this Charles Dickens’s house?
The AP Stylebook and AMA Manual of Style recommend adding just an apostrophe and no additional s (like you would with plural nouns).
- Charles’ boat
- Kamala Harris’ views
- Chris’ computer
- James’ house
- Jesus’ teachings
- Agnes’ books
- Charles Dickens’ novels
Additional S only if pronounced
An alternative style is to 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, or Dickens without an extra s sound.
- 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 possessives of names like Harris and Dennis generally are pronounced with an additional s sound. An apostrophe and s are then added to the spelling of the possessive.
- 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.
- Dumas’s writings
- Descartes’s ontological argument
Other style manuals, such as the APA Publication Manual and the AP Stylebook, suggest adding only an apostrophe (and no additional s).
- Camus’ novels
- Arkansas’ capital
The s of the possessive is still pronounced in speech.
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.
- 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 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.
- Marx’s theories
- Alex’s letters
- Diaz’s hairstyle
- Liz’s books
Possessives of plural family names
To form the possessive of a plural name (i.e., to refer to a family), first form the plural and then add an apostrophe after the final s. The plural of a family name ending in s is formed by adding es: Williams becomes Williamses, Harris becomes Harrises. The apostrophe that marks the possessive then goes after the final s.
- the Williamses’ cats
- the Harrises’ hats
- the Joneses’ bats
- the Reyeses’ rats
Make sure to form the plural first (Jones → Joneses), and then add the apostrophe at the end to form the possessive.
- Correct: the Joneses’ garage
Incorrect: the Jones’ garage
Incorrect: the Jones’s garage
Similarly, if a name ends in x, z, sh, or other sibilant sound, add es to form its plural, and then place an apostrophe after the final s to form the possessive of this plural name.
- the Diazes’ family home
- the Martinezes’ car
- the Knoxes’ cat
- the Walshes’ tax returns
Form plurals of other names not ending in a sibilant sound like s by adding just s, not es: the Smiths, the Dalys, the Patels, the Garcias. Then, to form the possessive, simply add an apostrophe after the final s, as you would with any other plural word.
- the Smiths’ dahlias
- the Patels’ new bookstore
- the Dalys’ farm
- the Murphys’ cat
- the Garcias’ townhouse
Possessives of country and place names ending in S
To form the possessive of a country or place name that ends in s, follow the same rules as those for people’s names: add either an apostrophe and another s or just an apostrophe, depending on the style you follow.
- Correct: Chicago, APA, MLA style: Texas’s districts
Correct: AP, AMA style: Texas’ districts
- Correct: Chicago, APA, MLA style: Kansas’s capital
Correct: AP, AMA style: Kansas’ capital.
If a place or country name is plural (like the United States), simply add an apostrophe at the end (without an additional s).
- the United States’ relationship with China
- the Philippines’ music industry
Never add an additional s to form the possessive of a place name that is plural, regardless of which style guide you follow.
- Incorrect: the United States’s representatives
Correct: the United States’ representatives
Examples from published content
Here are some examples that show how possessives of names ending in s can be formed by adding an apostrophe and another s.
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 be made possessive simply by adding an apostrophe.
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)