Et al. sounds foreign with a reason. It is a Latin abbreviation, and it can refer to a couple of different phrases, including “et alibi” (and elsewhere), which is pretty rare. Most often, “et al.” means “and others.”
The full phrase is “et alii,” “et aliae,” “et alia,” or “et alios” - and they all mean “and others” in Latin.
Confused by different phrases that mean the same? Well, they are not completely the same, although they can all be translated as “and others.”
Unlike English, in Latin (and many modern languages) nouns and pronouns have different forms that reflect the gender of the word. That’s called grammatical gender, and that’s one of the reasons why studying foreign languages can be such a headache.
Et alii is masculine plural. It refers to a group of people that are either exclusively male or mixed. Et aliae has a feminine plural form. It denotes a group of female members. Et alia is neuter plural, and it refers to things rather than human beings. Et alios also means “and other people” and can be used for mixed or male groups.
Luckily, you don’t have to memorize the difference between et alli, et aliae, and et alia. Et al. substitutes all of them.
How to use Et Al.
The rules that regulate the use of et al. are not hard to remember. First of all, you’ve already noticed the period that follows the phrase. It’s not “et al” but “et al.” with a period.
You’ve also noticed that we don’t use “et al.” in everyday communication. This phrase only belongs to the sphere of academic writing. In published academic books, articles, studies, research, theses, and other scholarly work, et al. indicates a group of at least three authors.
Examples of Et Al. in Academic Text
Let’s see some fresh “et al.” examples from the latest Science.org article titles.
Bioelectric signaling and the control of cardiac cell identity in response to mechanical forces by Hajime Fukui, Renee Wei-Yan Chow, et al.
Muscle repair after physiological damage relies on nuclear migration for cellular reconstruction by William Roman, Helena Pinheiro, et al.
Most often, we use “et al.” to reference books in bibliographies. Let’s see how to reference a book called Cats written by a group of authors.
The first citation follows APA7 format, and it contains the full list of authors:
Webber, L. A., Wright, N., Cullen, D., Knowland, N. D., Lynne, G., Mallet, D., & Paige, E. (2011). Cats. Universal Pictures (Australasia).
But if we use MLA9 guidelines to cite the same book, we get this:
Webber, Lloyd Andrew, et al. Cats. Universal Pictures (Australasia), 2011.
Etc. Vs. Et Al.
“Et al.” may remind us of “etc.” Both are Latin abbreviations, and both can be used instead of multiple list entries. But they are not the same. Etc. (et cetera) refers to other things, while “et al.” indicates other human beings.