- Whose describes possession, while who’s is a contraction meaning who is or who has.
- Whose and who’s are not interchangeable.
- Use whose when referencing ownership.
- Use who’s in casual conversation where contractions are appropriate.
People often associate an apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s’ with ownership. Because of this common misconception, choosing between whose vs. who’s becomes confusing.
Whose vs. who’s: which word is right for your sentence? One is a pronoun, and the other is a contraction. Learn the difference between these homophones in our practical guide.
Whose vs. Who’s: What’s the Difference?
Whose refers to possession, while who’s is a contraction that means who is or who has.
Who’s definition: (contraction) who is; who was; who has
Who becomes a contraction when you add an apostrophe and ‘s’ to it. Contractions can get confusing, but you can find more details about them in our apostrophe guide.
Whose and who’s are homophones. That means the two words sound alike in speech but are spelled differently. Other examples of homophones include:
- blue and blew
- to, too, and two
- red and read (past tense)
How to use Whose in a Sentence
Use whose when describing an entity that owns or possesses an item. Think of it as a replacement for whom or who, though it isn’t always grammatically correct to swap those words.
In the examples above, ownership or possession is indicated with an apostrophe and an ‘s.’ However, who’s breaks this rule. It’s a contraction, not a possessive word.
Who’s means who is, who was, or who has. So, you can’t use it interchangeably with whose. It’s appropriate for casual conversations where contractions are common.
Still confused? When writing a sentence, ask yourself whether you can replace whose/who’s with who is or who has. If the answer is yes, use the contraction who’s rather than the pronoun whose.
Whose or Who’s Examples
Whose is often a replacement for who or whom, though your sentence may require some rephrasing. You can’t necessarily swap the words.
The possessive form of whose often describes a person, but you can also use it for a pet or location.
Who’s is a contraction. Use it in place of who has, who is, who was. Who’ve is a similar word, and it means who have.
You can also use both forms of this homophone in a sentence, though it gets confusing.
Don’t let grammar errors detract attention from your brilliant work. Wow your audience—or at least get a passing score on your next essay—by using who’s and whose correctly.