Who’s vs. whose

Who’s is a contraction of who is or who has. Whose is the possessive form of who or which. Think of it this way: If you were to replace it with who is or who has, would its meaning change? If no, you want who’s. If yes, you want whose.

Here are a few examples of the words used correctly:

Celebrity birthdays: Who’s another year older Jan. 11? [OC Register]

Who’s Renting What on Netflix? [World’s Strangest]

Whose ass should I kick at ping-pong? [Warming Glow]

I am convinced this really is an idea whose time has come. [FDL]

Whose and inanimate objects

As in that last example above, whose—unlike who or who’s—may apply to inanimate objects or other non-person entities. For example, while you wouldn’t say, “The book, who is 500 pages, was released in 1923,” you could say, “The book, whose 500 pages fly by, was released in 1923.” This odd tendency arises out of the fact that there is no equivalent word in English that’s strictly for inanimate objects.

9 thoughts on “Who’s vs. whose”

  1. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I use these words I always get stumped and find myself right back here. I think it is because I don’t use these words enough and even when I use them right I still find myself doubting.

    • What helps me is to remove the contraction if you’re going to use who’s and ask yourself if it makes sense. For example, “who’s house are we going to?” Now remove the contraction. “Who is house are we going to?” In this case , it doesn’t make much sense so we would write “Whose house are we going to?”

  2. Anytime there is a contraction which appends the word “IS” or “HAS”, the confusion with the possessive form is incurred. This, I believe is a consistent rule which may be applied regardless of the root word(s), meaning it can be applied in every case to determine the need for an apostrophe.

    In other words, for the word “IT” or the word “WHO”, if you intend to append and contract the word “IS”, then you must use an apostrophe, otherwise it would not be a contraction. It does not matter that it may appear as the possessive form — the rule still applies.

    Conversely, in ALL possessive cases, appending an apostrophe followed by the letter “S” is not adding a contracted word. So it looks weird to have “ITS” and “WHOSE” as possessive — again, it does not matter what it looks like, the rule remains the same — you are either adding IS, HAS or indicating possession, and only one or the other makes sense:

    The boy is tall == the boy’s tall.

    But the boy’s ball belongs to him.

    The ball is his, because it’s his ball.

    He is a person, it’s true he’s a person, so the ball does not belong to it; the ball’s not its ball, it’s in fact the boy’s ball — the ball’s his — it’s not its own ball, its emancipation may someday come about, but it’s not its call. It’s just a ball. Its EEG is a flatline it’s not it’s reality, whether or not it’s in the boy’s imagination, it’s just its reality — that’s that and that’s it.

    it’s now solved. It’s like I solved its confusion. So it goes onto the solved stack-of-its.

    It’s really simple. It’s not what it looks like…It’s not what it’s like in its appearance.

    it’s its meaning — it’s its “it” context, t’is, isn’t it?

    Take for example the snack trademarked “It’s It”. When you buy an “It’s It”, you don’t buy one from “It”, because you are not buying its identity, the “It’s It” doesn’t care — it’s not insecure, it’s comfortable knowing of itself and believing in its inalienable being, ergo It’s it, and it truly is it, and nobody else’s — it’s its own it. It’s not to be confused with other its, or any of its cheap imitations. It’s “It’s It” by definition. That’s what’s important.


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