Whose or Who’s | Difference & Example Sentences

Whose and who’s are pronounced the same but fulfill different grammatical roles.

  • Whose is the possessive form of the pronoun ‘who’.
  • Who’s is a contraction (shortened form) of ‘who is’ or ‘who has’.
Examples: ‘Whose’ in a sentence Examples: ‘Who’s’ in a sentence
Whose book is this? Who’s the man wearing a suit?
Philip, whose job was very demanding, needed a holiday. Who’s eaten at this restaurant before?

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‘Whose’ for possession

Whose is the possessive form of ‘who’. While possession is usually indicated by adding ’s to the end of the relevant word, possessive adjectives don’t use apostrophes: my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose.

Whose can be used before a noun to ask a question about possession.

Examples: ‘Whose’ before a noun
Whose idea was it to go camping?

It can also be used to replace a noun in a question when the noun is already known.

Example: ‘Whose’ replacing a noun
It was someone’s idea to go camping. Whose was it?

Whose can also be used as a relative determiner (i.e., to begin a clause that modifies a noun).

Example: ‘Whose’ as a relative determiner
Tamara, whose recipes are innovative, just released a cookbook.

The man whose wife won the auction does not seem happy.

Note
Whose can also be used to indicate possession for animals, places, and inanimate objects (e.g., Iceland is a country whose history fascinates me). It doesn’t always have to refer to people.

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‘Who’s’ is a contraction

Who’s is a contraction (shortened form) of ‘who is’ or ‘who has’. It can be used at the beginning of a sentence or clause to ask a question. The apostrophe ‘s’ here indicates a shortening of one of those words – not possession.

Examples: ‘Who’s’ to begin a question
Who’s your new teacher?

Who’s been to the coast lately?

Who’s can also be used to begin a clause that modifies a noun.

Examples: ‘Who’s’ to modify a noun
Jodi is an accountant who’s considering an early retirement.

Kamilah is the teacher who’s in charge of the field trip.

Although contractions are fine in conversation and informal writing, you should avoid using contractions like who’s in academic or formal writing.

Tip
If you’re unsure whether you’re using who’s correctly, replace it with who is or who has:

  • If the sentence makes sense with one of these substitutions, who’s is correct.
  • If not, you probably mean whose.

Worksheet: Who’s vs whose

You can test your knowledge of the difference between ‘whose’ and ‘who’s’ with the worksheet below. Fill in either ‘whose’ or ‘who’s’ in each sentence.

  1. ______ car is parked in my spot?
  2. Tyler, ______ band is quite popular, plays the bass guitar.
  3. ______ going to help me move house on Saturday?
  4. Tom, ______ a good mechanic, might be able to help you.
  5. Cheryl, ______ party this is, wants to know ______ broken the TV.
  1. Whose car is parked in my spot?
    • ‘Whose’ is the possessive form of the pronoun ‘who’. It can be used before a noun to ask a question about possession.
  1. Tyler, whose band is quite popular, plays the bass guitar.
    • ‘Whose’ can be used as a relative pronoun (i.e., to begin a clause that modifies a noun).
  1. Who’s going to help me move house on Saturday?
    • ‘Who’s’ is a contraction (shortened form) of ‘who is’ or ‘who has’. Here, it means ‘who is’ and is used at the beginning of a sentence to ask a question.
  1. Tom, who’s a good mechanic, might be able to help you.
    • ‘Who’s’ can also be used to begin a clause that modifies a noun (in this case, ‘Tom’).
  1. Cheryl, whose party this is, wants to know who’s broken the TV.
    • In the first instance, ‘whose’ is used as a relative pronoun to modify the noun ‘Cheryl’. In the second instance, ‘who’s’ is short for ‘who has’.

    Other interesting language articles

    If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

     

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    Eoghan Ryan

    Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.