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Lexical battle: Who’s vs. Whose

01 August 2017 24

The words who's and whose might look simple but only at first sight. Indeed, they can be easily confused. Mixing them up wouldn’t be that dangerous if these words didn’t have various meanings and performed different functions in the sentence.

Native English speakers probably trouble with understanding why these words are so confusing for English language learners, but the reason is quite apparent. These two words are homophones that mean they sound the same but imply different things. Moreover, to make a word possessive in English, we usually add “ ‘s ” at the end like in the phrase “the boy’s apple” (which apparently means this apple belongs to the kid) and this tiny apostrophe confuse people even more.

With pronouns like for example “who” or “it” we don’t do the same thing because they have own possessive forms - separate words as “whose” or “its.” If we had to add an apostrophe each time we wanted to say “who is” or “belonging to who,” we would definitely get confused, a lot!

So let’s figure out who’s who... or whose?

WHO

It’s worth to mention that both words who’s and whose come from the same pronoun “who.” Don’t get shocked, alright? Thanks. So, firstly, let’s take a look at this incredibly tricky pronoun - “who.”

Who is a subject pronoun the same as I, he, she, it or they, but its usage has a small difference, and here it is: we have this word only for interrogative question related to all animate subjects. Simply put, whenever you want to ask a question about anything animated, you use who. This word has a lot of forms which make lots of people suffering in attempts to use them correctly. But we’re going to review the most tricky ones and finally get into the difference between who’s and whose.

WHO’S

Who’s is an abbreviated form of either “who is” or “who has.” As you might notice, the apostrophe stands there only to short the word by removing a missing letter and make pronunciation easier and quicker.

Just because who’s is a contraction word, you can remember that the two words always stuck together. So here is the formula: who + is, or who + has. Instead of asking something long and terribly sounding like “Who is going to go…?” you can use who’s and simplify everything. In case you want to ask something like “Who has got that book?” switch the first two words on who’s and everyone will thank you later.

WHOSE

Whose is a possessive pronoun which is often used as an adjective and provides readers or listeners with some additional information about the person or subject that was previously mentioned. Use it whenever you want to ask or tell whom something belongs to like for example “Whose car is this?”.

Another way to explain the right time to use whose is: whenever it would be wrong to say who is or who has, just go for whose and you won’t be wrong. Originally, the word whose was only used to describe a person or several persons but now it’s fine to use whose even with inanimate objects and places. So don’t get stuck while talking about something inanimate and use the word whose confidently.

Master skills

Who’s the person whose article you’re reading?

Just checking your attention and giving you a nice example of how not to get confused while using who’s and whose in one sentence. Alright, hope you boosted up a bit your grammar. But let’s summarize everything.

  • Who’s and whose both come from the interrogative pronoun who.
  • Use the formula of who + is or who + has for the contraction word who’s.
  • Use whose when you mean “belongs to somebody or something.”

Great job! Now give some beautiful examples in the comments and start practicing with these tricky words. Good luck.

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