Who’s vs. Whose


Who's or Whose?

Here’s another spelling trouble spot. I’ll get to it eventually in my tour through homophones that cause spelling problems, but since I see this one so often, I thought I’d address it separately.

When do you use who’s and when whose?

This problem is identical to the more common it’s vs. its dilemma. That’s good because it means you can remember the same rule for both.

Who’s, like it’s is a contraction — two words squished into one with an apostrophe replacing the missing letters. Like it’s is short for it is, who’s is short for who is or occasionally who has. You’d use in sentences like,

I know a guy who’s awesome at cat juggling.

Who’s coming to the pumpkin carving competition this afternoon?

Who’s been tap dancing in the solarium?

Whose, on the other hand, is a possessive pronoun — just like its.

I know a guy whose feet are smelly.

Whose bacon is this?

You may be familiar with the trick for it’s/its: mentally substitute it is. If it makes sense, include the apostrophe. The same trick works for who’s/whose. Mentally substitute who is or who has If it works, you need the contraction who’s. Otherwise, it’s the possessive whose.

I know a guy (who is) awesome at cat juggling. Bingo! Use who’s.

I know a guy (who is) feet are smelly. Um, no. Use whose. 

(Who has) been to Antarctica? That works. Use who’s.

(Who has) Abba CD is this? Nope. Use whose.

If you’d like to try it, here’s a short quiz. I’ll post answers in a comment below.

Who’s or Whose?

1. My uncle Ted, __________ eyes are green, is wearing a tuxedo.

2. ____________ got tickets to the ballet?

3. __________ class will you be taking next semester?

4. Do you know anyone _________ a good match-maker?

5. ____________ your favorite actor?

6. The man _________ clothes need ironing has an appointment.

7. There are seven children ____________ faces need washing.

8. I can’t remember _________ house that is.

9. _________  the current governor of Nebraska?

10. Always respect someone _________ had more life experience than you.


Tell us how you did on the quiz, or leave a comment below!

About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko08-20-2012

    90% Will! (You missed #3)

    Here are the answers:

    1. whose
    2. whose
    3. whose
    4. who’s
    5. who’s
    6. whose
    7. whose
    8. whose
    9. who’s
    10. who’s

  2. Will

    1. whose
    2. whose
    3. who’s
    4. who’s
    5. who’s
    6. whose
    7. whose
    8. whose
    9. who’s
    10. who’s

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