How to Make Weird Nouns Plural

Some simple rules will keep you from being confounded when you’re trying to figure out how to make proper nouns such as “iPhone 5,” “iPad 4S,” and “Blackberry” plural.

Mignon Fogarty,
June 27, 2013
Episode #373

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Indeed, “iPad 2s” is the plural that is widely used by big publications. For example, a few years ago around Halloween, there were a bunch of articles about a guy who used two iPad 2s to create the illusion of a hole through his body: Wired, MSN, TUAW, and CBS all said he used two “iPad 2s.”

Further, in its entry on plurals, the AP Stylebook agrees. It says to add a lone “s” when making figures plural and gives the example “The airline has two 727s.”

What Will Be the Plural of the Next Version: iPhone 5Ses?

Nick’s question seems even trickier when you consider that Apple tends to rotate through product names that have a number followed by an “S,” so we have the iPad 2 and the iPad 2S and the iPhone 5 and the soon-to-be-released iPhone 5S. The good news is that the “s” in the product names is capitalized, so at least it doesn’t look exactly like the plural; but still, then we have to figure out how to make something like “iPhone 5S” plural. 

Making Proper Nouns That End in “S” Plural

The closest situation I can think of is making a proper noun that ends in “s” plural, and we do that by adding “es” to the end. For example, if you have two students named Charles, you have two Charleses in your class. If your son has two friends named Jonas, you might invite two Jonases to his birthday party.

And getting back to BlackBerrys, the plural is formed by adding one “s” onto the end. You don’t spell it like the plural of the fruit. Why? Because it’s a name. If you see two Kennedys on the subway, you don’t spell it “Kennedies,” you spell it “Kennedys.” You treat product names the same way, just as you would a personal name. Personal names that end in “y,” such as “Kennedy,” get an “s” at the end, and personal names that end in “s,” such as “Charles,” get an “es” at the end.

Since we usually treat product names like people’s names, it seems to make sense that even if the product name seems troublesome, we’d still follow the same rules—we’d write about two iPhone 5Ses. You do see product names pluralized in this way in articles from major news organizations. For example, CNET had a headline last year that read Apple buying iPhone 4Ses ahead of expected iPhone 5 launch and before that, Gizmodo had a headline that read Apple Sells One Million iPhone 4Ses In 24 Hours.

So although product names ending in numbers or with an “s” may seem special, they’re not. They follow the same rules you’d use for making a person’s name plural.

[Note that the conclusion here contradicts earlier advice I gave on my blog. In that case, I used initialisms as the model for “iPhone 2S,” and the general rule for initialisms that end in “s” seems to be that you just add another single “s,” giving you “OSs” as the plural of the initialism for “operating systems” for example. Upon further consideration, however, I believe product names are more like people’s names than like initialisms, and I have changed my mind. Common usage also seems to support “iPhone 4Ses.”]

[The official spelling is "BlackBerry" (camel case). The original article spelled it as "Blackberry." Further, readers have pointed out that the "S" designation did not start until the iPhone 4.]


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