Using Whose with Inanimate Objects

The Quick Answer
Can whose be used with inanimate objects?

The word whose can be used with inanimate as well as animate objects. For example:
  • A woman whose expression is glad has an innate beauty.
  • A flower whose petals have withered still reeks of potential.
  • (NB: Plants are not considered animate.)

Whose Can Be Used with Animate and Inanimate Objects

Whose is the possessive form of who and which. It is not just the possessive form of who.

Why Do People Dislike Using Whose with Inanimate Objects?

Even though whose can be used for inanimate objects, it feels awkward because we tend to think of whose as being the possessive of only who and not which.

The pronoun who refers to a person (and occasionally an animal). The person (or animal) that who refers to is called its antecedent. In each example below, the antecedent of who is shown in bold:
  • I know the boy who stole the pie.
  • (Here, boy is the antecedent of who.)
  • The target is the man with the white stick who is bending now.
  • (Here, man is the antecedent of who.)
In the second example above, we know who is bending now refers to man because who can only refer to animate things. Compare that example with this one: In the example above, we know which is bending now refers to stick because if it referred to man, we would have used who and not which.

See Also

Which, that, and who Using a comma before which and who Who and whom Possessive adjectives Possessive pronouns