Who's or Whose?

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Who's or Whose?

What is the difference between "who's" and "whose"?
  • "Who's" is short for "who is" or "who has."
  • (This is a 100% rule - it has no other uses.)
  • "Whose" is a bit more complicated. It sits before a noun to state (or ask) to whom it belongs. For example:
    • I know a man whose dog can say sausages.
    • Whose dog is this?
whose or who's?

Click on the Two Correct Sentences
(Interactive Game)

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More about "Who's"

"Who's" is a contraction of either "who is" or "who has." It has no other uses.
  • Who's coming to fix the bed?
  • ("who is")
  • Who's eaten the last muffin?
  • ("who has")
  • I met the inspector who's delivering tomorrow's briefing.
  • ("who is")
who's = "who is" or "who has"

If you cannot substitute the "who's" in your sentence with either "who is" or "who has," then it is wrong.

More about "Whose"

Whose is the possessive form of "who." It means "belonging to whom." "Whose" usually sits before a noun.
  • Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.
  • ("Whose" is before the noun "visit." "Whose" in this example is a relative pronoun.)
  • Whose bike was expensive?
  • ("Whose" is before the noun "bike." "Whose" in this example is an interrogative determiner.)
  • Carl knows the girl whose phone was stolen.
  • ("Whose" is before the noun "phone." "Whose" in this example is a relative pronoun.)

Even More about "Whose"

There's a lot going on with "whose." As well as being a relative pronoun, "whose" is also a determiner. You will see it listed among the possessive determiners and, because it can be used to ask a question, also as an interrogative determiner. The table below shows "whose" listed among the other possessive determiners.
Personal PronounPossessive DeterminerExample
ImyI do not choose that my grave should be dug while I am still alive. (Queen Elizabeth I)
youyourIf you want peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. (South African cleric Desmond Tutu)
hehisIf a man could have half of his wishes, he would double his troubles. (Founding Father Benjamin Franklin)
sheherShe got her looks from her father. He's a plastic surgeon. (Comedian Groucho Marx)
ititsWorry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow. It only saps today of its joy. (Author Leo Buscaglia)
weourHow we spend our days is how we spend our lives. (Author Annie Dillard)
theytheirMen are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth. (Martial artist Chuck Norris)
whowhoseThe key is to keep company only with people whose presence calls forth your best. (Greek philosopher Epictetus)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? What are nouns? What are contractions? What are interrogative pronouns? What are relative pronouns? 
List of easily confused words