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Language Arts

Who’s vs Whose

When should you use who's vs. whose in a sentence? This article will clear up the confusion between who's and whose, provide examples of each, and give you some hints about when to use the contraction who's vs. the pronoun whose.

Who’s the fellow whose car is parked smack in the middle of my front lawn!? Most people, when they stop and think, know that who’s is a contraction of a pronoun with a verb, while whose is simply a pronoun. This article will help highlight the differences and make some suggestions to help you keep them straight.


Who’s is a contraction formed of the nominative form who (the interrogative and relative pronoun that refers to people, as opposed to that, which refers to animals and inanimate objects) and one of the verbs is or has. When who is combined with is, the apostrophe replaces the i. When who is combined with has, two letters•h and a•are replaced by the apostrophe. Here are some examples:

Contraction of interrogative who and has:

Who’s eaten the last of the peppermint stick ice cream that I was specially saving?

(Who has eaten . . . )

Contraction of interrogative who and is:

Who’s going to chop the mushrooms and who would rather peel hard-boiled eggs?

(Who is going to chop . . .)

Contraction of relative who and has:

Alice Sturgeon is, of all the past presidents or our organization, the one who’s consistently donated the most time to us after leaving office.

(. . . the one who has consistently donated . . .)

Contraction of relative who and is:

Joshua Tibbett is the gardener who’s responsible for the Japanese beetle infestation in the community garden!

(. . . the one who is responsible . . .)

Who’s is pronounced /HOOZ/.


Whose is the possessive form of who and, like who, can perform an interrogative or relative function. Here are some examples:

Interrogative pronoun:

This is my swimsuit • whose is the plaid one?

I wonder: whose Chicago Sun Times ended up on my porch this morning?

Relative pronoun

Ralph is the person whose impressive behavior in his first year at college led our class to vote him “Most Likely to Have His Own Show on Comedy Central.”

Differentiating Who’s and Whose

In English, most possessives are formed by adding apostrophe s. So the pronoun contraction who’s looks like the kind of construction that fits the meaning situation in which it is grammatically correct to use whose, the possessive form. Knowing that there is a special reason that who’s in place of whose may not, at a glance, appear to be wrong, may help you to stay alert so that you catch it.

In addition, because who’s and whose are both correct spellings, it is necessary to use the grammar check in your word processor in addition to the spell check in order to catch this error. If you are impatient when the grammar checker, for example, flags all the passive constructions that, given your context, are perfectly fine, one idea is to do a Find on who’s and check each spot. If it is helpful, you can mentally replace who’s with the words who is or who has to see if you’ve used the correct form.

Written by Mary Elizabeth