Who’s and whose both come from the pronoun who. While both words sound the same, they have very different meanings. These homophones can be tricky for even the most seasoned writers.
In this article, we’ll discuss whose vs who’s, explain when to use whose or who’s, and give you tricks for remembering proper usage.
Whose vs Who’s: What’s the Difference?
To start, let’s define whose and who’s.
Whose is a possessive pronoun that you should use when you’re asking or telling whom something belongs to.
Who’s is a contraction made up of the words “who” and “is” or “who” and “has”.
The Roots of Whose vs Who’s: Who and Whom
The key to using “whose” vs “who’s” correctly is to understand the word at the root of each. When you learn the pronoun that forms the basis for “whose” and “who’s,” you’ll also develop a better understanding of how each word functions in a sentence.
“Who” is one pronoun at the root of the difference between “whose” and “who’s.” “Who” is used as the subject of a sentence or clause.
You’ll use “who” when asking a question about which person did something or when you’re describing a person.
- Who put the pizza here?
- Who owns that dog?
- Hayley, who owns a cat, often has cat hair all over her clothes.
“Whom” is the other word at the center of the “whose or who’s” conundrum. "Whom" is an object pronoun.
An object pronoun is a word like “him,” “her,” or “them”. An object pronoun is a type of pronoun that’s used as a grammatical object, such as object of a verb or the object of a preposition.
- Whom does she love?
- To whom was the teacher talking?
- With whom was she walking?
In these examples, “whom” is the object, not the subject.
Whose or Who’s?
Now we know that whose and who’s come from whom and who. But when do you use each version?
"Who’s" is a contraction made up of either “who+is” or “who+has”.
The apostrophe in “who’s” stands in for the missing letters of “who+is” or “who+has.” You use “who’s” when you would otherwise be saying “who is” or “who has”.
For instance, “Who is going to the party?” can become “Who’s going to the party?”
Here are other examples of when you’d use “who’s”:
- Who’s coming to dinner tonight?
- Who’s got a better idea?
- Who’s excited for the new Avengers movie?
While “who’s” comes from “who”, “whose” is related to “whom.”
Whose is a possessive pronoun that you used in questions where you’re asking about who owns something. For instance, “Whose puppy is this?” is another way of saying, “To whom does this puppy belong?”
Here are some examples of when you’d use “whose”:
- Whose car alarm is going off?
- Whose house are we going to?
- Whose shoes are these?
Tricks For Remembering Whose vs Who’s
It might seem simple to remember the difference between whose or who’s when reading this article, but how will you remember when you’re off on your own? These tricks can help.
#1: Say “Who Is” or “Who Has”
One way to figure out whether you should use “who’s” or “whose” is to say “who is” out loud to yourself as you read or write. If that makes sense in the sentence, you should use who’s. If it doesn’t, you should use whose.
#2: Look at What Follows
Remember, whose is possessive. That means that whose is normally followed by a noun. If the sentence has a noun immediately after the whose or who’s, you should use whose. If there’s no noun or an article, use who’s.
#3: Am I Using a Contraction?
“Who’s” is a contraction while “whose” is not. All contractions use apostrophes to replace the missing letters formed by joining together words. If the word you’re writing is a contraction, it’s “who’s.” If the word isn’t a contraction, it’s “whose.”
Whose or Who’s Examples
Let’s take a look at some examples of when to use whose or who’s.
Correct Usage of “Whose” in a Sentence
- Do you know whose car that is?
- Whose backpack is this?
- Whose line is it anyway?
Correct Usage of “Who’s” in a Sentence
- Who’s excited for the holiday season?
- Do you know who’s going to the game?
- Who’s got the takeout menu?
Key Takeaways: Whose vs. Who's
Who’s is a contraction of “who + is” or “who + has”.
Whose is another way of saying “belonging to whom”.
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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.