When to Use Whose vs. Who’s

By Alan Reiner – December 18, 2023

Navigating the English language can be tricky, especially when it comes to commonly confused words like “whose” and “who’s.” You may have stumbled upon situations where it’s difficult to determine which word to use. To help you overcome this dilemma, let’s explore the key differences between these two terms.

“Whose” is a possessive pronoun, used to indicate ownership or a relationship to something or someone. For example, “Whose book is this?” Conversely, “who’s” is a contraction that combines “who” with either “is” or “has.” An example sentence would be, “Who’s going to the store?” By understanding these distinctions, you can confidently use these words in your writing and conversations.

Who’s vs. Whose: A Comparison

Who For Contraction

Who’s is a contraction of the words “who is” or “who has.” It is typically seen in sentences where you are referring to someone’s actions or state of being. For example:

  • Who’s going to the party tonight?
  • Do you know who’s responsible for this mess?

Whose For Possession

On the other hand, whose is a possessive pronoun used to attribute possession or a relationship to a noun. It helps to identify to whom or what something belongs. Consider these examples:

  • Whose coat is this?
  • I met a woman whose daughter is studying abroad.

To easily remember the difference between these two homophones, think of the apostrophe used in “who’s.” An apostrophe often signifies a contraction, and in this case, it’s merging “who” with “is” or “has.” This can help you recall that “who’s” is the contracted form, while “whose” is the possessive form.

Understanding the proper use of “who’s” and “whose” is essential for communicating clearly and maintaining proper grammar. By differentiating between these two terms based on their contraction and possessive forms, you can ensure that your writing is accurate and easily understood.

Understanding “Who”: A Guide

Who

“Who” is a relative pronoun used as the subject of a verb. It refers to people and replaces nouns or pronouns for subjects in a sentence. Example: Who made dinner?

Whom

“Whom” is the object pronoun of “who.” It is used after prepositions and as a direct or indirect object of verbs. “Whom” is more common in formal writing. Example: To whom should I address the letter?

Who’s

“Who’s” is a contraction, a shortened form of “who + is” or “who + has.” Use “who’s” when replacing these phrases in sentences. Example: Who’s responsible for the mess?

Whose

“Whose” is the possessive form of “who.” It acts as a possessive pronoun or possessive adjective to indicate ownership or belonging. Example: Whose car keys are these?

Example Time: Who’s In?

Let’s dive into sentence examples to clarify the usage of “whose” and “who’s.” Remember, “whose” is a possessive adjective indicating ownership or a relationship between people or things, while “who’s” is a contraction of “who is” or “who has.”

Example 1:

  • Whose coat is this? (possessive adjective)
  • Who’s wearing a coat? (contraction: who is)

Example 2:

  • Whose idea was it to go hiking? (possessive adjective)
  • Who’s going hiking with us? (contraction: who is)

Notice how “whose” describes an ownership or connection, whereas “who’s” indicates an action or state.

Now, let’s see how “whose” can be used with inanimate objects.

Example 3:

  • Whose book is lying on the table? (possessive adjective)
  • Who’s reading a book at the table? (contraction: who is)

In this case, “whose” is applied to an inanimate object – the book – still expressing possession.

Keep these examples in mind as you encounter “whose” and “who’s” in your writing. By understanding the distinction and recognizing which form to use, you’ll communicate your ideas clearly and confidently.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are examples of using ‘whose’ correctly?

Whose book is this? Whose responsibility is it to take out the trash? In these examples, ‘whose’ shows possession, indicating to whom something belongs.

How do I choose between ‘who’s’ and ‘whose’ in a sentence?

Ask yourself if the word is a contraction or showing possession. ‘Who’s’ is a contraction of “who is” or “who has.” If you can replace ‘who’s’ with “who is” or “who has,” use ‘who’s.’ Otherwise, use ‘whose’ for possession.

What are common mistakes when using ‘whose’ and ‘who’s’?

A common mistake is using ‘who’s’ when showing possession. Since ‘who’s’ is a contraction, it can’t show possession. Remember, ‘whose’ is used for possession and ‘who’s’ is a contraction of “who is” or “who has.”

How does ‘whose’ differ from ‘whom’?

‘Whose’ is a possessive pronoun which is used to show ownership. ‘Whom,’ on the other hand, is an object pronoun used to refer to the object of a verb or preposition. Example: To whom should I address this letter?

In possessive situations, should I use ‘whose’ or ‘who’s’?

In possessive situations, always use ‘whose.’ The word ‘whose’ shows possession, while ‘who’s’ is a contraction of “who is” or “who has” and cannot show possession.

Are there any mnemonic devices to remember the difference between ‘whose’ and ‘who’s’?

Think of the apostrophe in ‘who’s’ as a clue that it’s a contraction. If you can substitute “who is” or “who has,” then use ‘who’s.’ Otherwise, use ‘whose’ when showing possession. Another tip is to associate the ‘s’ in ‘whose’ with the ‘s’ in ‘possession,’ reminding you that ‘whose’ indicates ownership.