Who’s vs. Whose – How to Use Each Correctly
What is the Difference Between Whose and Who’s?
Whose and who’s are two English homophones. This means that the words have the same pronunciation but different spellings and definitions. Both words deal with the pronoun who yet they aren’t interchangeable.
Whose is a pronoun. It is the possessive case of who, and it acts as an adjective. In other words, it tells or questions which person has possession or ownership of something.
- Whose wallet is this?
Who’s is a contraction of the words who is or who has. This can be part of a statement or question about a person’s identity or something that a person has done.
- This is the woman who’s responsible for all our new initiatives.
Now, let’s go over the specific ways each of these words are used.
Using Whose in a Sentence
When to use whose: Whose acts as a pronoun. It can question to whom something belongs. It can also begin a clause to give more information about a person and something over which they have ownership.
- We don’t know whose dog keeps digging holes in our lawn but we intend to find out.
- David Beckham is the man whose hair sparked dozens of fashion trends.
Common nouns use apostrophes to show possession.
- The man’s hair is amazing!
- The dog’s holes are destructive.
However, possessive pronouns such as whose, his, her, their, our, my, and your do not use apostrophes because they are already possessive.
Using Who’s in a Sentence
When to use who’s: Who’s is a contraction of the pronoun who and either the verb is or has.
- Who’s that actor who always plays himself in films?
- I’ve gone to that beach before. Who’s gone to that volcano?
There is one important expression with who’s:
- who’s who: who is everyone/what important information is there about various people
- The party was filled with the world’s elite. It was a who’s who of the richest one percent.
- I don’t know anyone here. Who’s who?
This expression can act as either a noun or a full question.
Remembering Whose vs. Who’s
There’s an easy way to keep track of these two words by look at the apostrophe.
I’m, you’re, they’re, she’s, he’s, and we’ve are all examples of contractions. All these contractions use an apostrophe, as does who’s. Remembering that contractions use apostrophes can help you know when to use who’s.
It might help to consider the fact that the apostrophe replaces the missing letter or letters. For example, in the contraction don’t, the apostrophe replaces the missing o. In you’re the apostrophe replaces the missing a. In who’s it replaces the missing i or ha depending on whether it stands for who is or who has.
On the other hand, possessive pronouns like his, her, my, and our do not use apostrophes, just as whose doesn’t use an apostrophe.
- She is one of a number of artists, poets and others The Times will profile in coming months whose personal bonds to the city feed its diffuse soul. –LA Times
- “Parents, guardians, partner NGOs whose job it is to care for children, and medical doctors were always on hand everyday, to ensure everyone had all they needed.” –USA Today
- To remind Richardson: Marshall, who’s now with the Giants, said during a radio interview that he didn’t think he’d fare well on his former team because he believes the Jets don’t have much of a chance to win this season. –New York Daily News
- ‘I’m a Civilian. I’m Innocent’: Who’s in Congo’s Mass Graves? –New York Times
Quiz: Who’s vs. Whose
Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either who’s or whose.
- You always agree with her. I see ___________ side you’re on.
- __________ that knocking on my door?
- ___________ been to this restaurant before?
- The police officer was not sure ____________ fingerprints those were, but she thought they belonged to the criminal.
- __________ turn is it to pay for dinner?
Should I use whose or who’s? These two homophones sound the same when spoken, but they are never interchangeable.
- Whose is a possessive adjective that shows or asks about what belongs to someone.
- Who’s is a contraction for the expressions who is or who has.
Using the information above can help to ensure that you don’t mix up these two different words.