Who's or Whose?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Who's" and "Whose"?

"Who's" and "whose" are easy to confuse because they sound identical (i.e., they are perfect homonyms). However, their meanings are very different.
  • Who's. "Who's" is short for who is or who has.
    • Who's going to the party?
    • (Here, "who's" expands to who is.)
    • Who's taken my hat?
    • (Here, "who's" expands to who has.)
  • Whose. "Whose" tells us about ownership. For example:
    • I know a man whose dog can say "sausages."
    • ("Whose" tells us that the man owns the dog.)
    • Whose hat is this?
    • (Here, "whose" asks a question about ownership.)
whose or who's?

More about "Who's" and "Whose"

Who's

"Who's" is a contraction of either "who is" or "who has." It has no other uses.

Example sentences with "who's":
  • 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!

"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 a determiner. You will see it listed with possessive determiners and with interrogative determiners. Here is a table with "whose" used in each of these grammatical functions.
Examples as a Relative Pronoun
  • I met the man whose son won the Judo competition.
  • Jack found a coin whose date was 5 BC. How did they know it was BC?
  • ("Whose" can be used with inanimate things too, not just people.) Read more about relative pronouns.
    Examples as a Possessive and an Interrogative Determiner
  • Whose coat is this?
  • I want to know whose coat this is.

  • NB: "Whose" is a unique among the determiners because it is two types of determiner at the same time. Read more about possessive determiners (also called possessive adjectives). Read more about interrogative determiners (also called interrogative adjectives).

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    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 contractions? What are interrogative pronouns? What are relative pronouns? 
    List of easily confused words

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