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Whose vs. Who’s: What’s the Difference?

Who's is a contraction that combines who and is. Whose is the possessive form of who.

Last updated on February 20th, 2024 at 02:13 am



Who’s vs. whose

If who’s and whose still gets you mixed up—don’t worry, the answer is a matter of a quick lesson in grammar.


It’s not so complicated once you understand the key terms and how they work—which is what we do in this article! Keep reading to understand the difference, and nail English grammar.



“Who’s” and “whose”, explained

Whose and who’s are both forms of the interrogative pronoun “who“, (not the World Health Organization):


WordSentence example
Whose (possessive pronoun)Whose book is this? Whose car is parked in my spot?
Who’s (contraction of who + is/has)Who’s going to be at the party? Who’s been to this restaurant before?



How to use the contraction who’s

Who’s with an apostrophe is a contraction of who and the [verb] is or has, in the third-person present singular:



  • [Who + has]: Do you know who’s been here before?; she’s someone who’s always been there for me.


An apostrophe ‘s can indicate possession or a shortened form of two words where certain letters have been pulled. The latter, (the omission of letters) is how ‘s appears in “who’s“. Remember, in formal writing, we try to avoid most contractions; apostrophes indicating possession is correct regardless of the tone of writing.



How to use whose (possessive)

Whose is the possessive form of who. We use whose to ask about possession or belonging; to specify something we’re referring to, or to provide more information on something or someone:


Whose phone is that on the table?

It’s the house whose door is painted red.

Jakewhose sister is an archeologist, is considering studying the subject as well.


Because “whose” is a possessive determiner, it doesn’t need an apostrophe ‘s to show possession since the noun is already made clear. The other possessive determiners are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose.


Also keep in mind that as a possessive pronoun, ‘whose‘ can refer to all types of nouns; e.g., people, places, things, and is not reserved for people only: China is a country whose history fascinates me.



Why do we confuse who’s and whose?



Who’s and whose are homophones in the English language, which are words that sound the same and are pronounced the same, but have different meanings, and should therefore be used distinctly from each other. This is true in the case of who’s and whose, despite both being rooted in the same subject pronoun who.

In review: who’s vs. whose

Whose vs who's
Who’s vs. whose. Made by grammarflex.


  • Whose is the possessive form of who and asks about ownership or possession.

  • Who’s is a contraction of ‘who + is‘ or ‘who + has’, and is commonly used to ask questions.


Pro tip! If you’re unsure whether you’re using either word correctly, try replacing it with “who is” or “who has”. If either work in the context, then the correct spelling is who’s (with the apostrophe s).

Other examples of sentences with “who’s”

“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

Who’s been eating my porridge?

Guess who’s coming to dinner tonight?

Do you know who’s going to be at the party?

I have no idea who’s working tomorrow.

Examples of sentences using “whose”

Bernard stood there face to face with Mrs. Vivian, whose eyes seemed to plead with him more than ever.

Polavieja, as everybody knew, was the chosen executive of the friars, whose only care was to secure their own position.

She didn’t know whose car was parked in front of the house. 

We wondered whose wallet was left on the bench. 

Guess whose son is getting married next month! 

Other forms of who

  • Who’ve = who have.Who’ve you asked so far?
  • Who’ll = who will. “Who’ll be at the party tonight?”
  • Who’re = who are. “The film begins with a young couple who’re just about to get married.”
  • Who’d = who had or who would. “She wondered who’d sent her the mysterious email.”

What about whom?

The difference between whom, whose and who’s is a bit trickier than just whose and who’s. Whom is the indirect object form of who, and receives the action of the sentence rather than actively performing it, (as in the case of who’s.) For example, in the sentence, “For whom did you knit the sweater?” Whom functions as the sentence object and receives the action of the verb; which, in this case, is the knitted sweater.

The difference between who’s and whose is that who’s is a contraction of who + is or who + has. Example: who’s got the remote? Whose is a possessive pronoun that indicates ownership or possession of an object, idea and so on. Example: whose shoes are these?



Read about nouns in grammar

Sources

1. Wikipedia contributors. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Jan. 2024. Web. 20 Feb. 2024.


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