Grammar 10 min read

When to use Whose vs. Who's With Easy Examples

Main Whose vs. Who’s Takeaways:

  • Whose and who’s are homophones but they are not interchangeable.
  • Whose vs. who’s are both correct but have different functions.
  • The easiest way to know if you’re using the correct word is to replace the word with who is/who has/who was. If the sentence still makes sense, then who’s is correct. If not, then whose is probably correct.
  • On one hand, whose describes possession.
  • Use whose when referencing ownership.
  • On the other hand, who’s is a contraction of who is or who has.
  • Use who’s to replace who is or who has in casual conversations where contractions are appropriate.
Whose bike is this?
Who’s coming to the park with us later?

Whose vs. who’s: which word is right for your sentence? One is a pronoun, and the other is a contraction. Here, we’ll show you how to remember the difference between these two homophones. Also, you’ll see plenty of examples so you never doubt when to use which.

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whose vs. who's: A boy looking confused on what to use. Is it whose or who's?
Whose and who’s are not interchangeable. Whose is a pronoun that expresses possession. On the other hand, who’s is a contraction of the phrase “who is.”

When we see an apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s,’ we tend to associate this with ownership. And, most of the time, this rule holds true. However, almost every rule in the English language has an exception, and this one is no different.

For example, when it comes to it’s vs. its and whose vs. who’s, the word with the apostrophe ‘s’ is not the possessive one. Rather, it’s a contraction.

Whose vs. Who’s

Whose and whose are homophones, meaning these words sound the same. However, they have completely different spellings, meanings, and functions. On one hand, who’s is a contraction that links the pronoun who with the verbs is, has, or was. Like other contractions, it’s appropriate for casual conversations, but should be spelled out in formal writing. Conversely, whose is possessive pronoun that shows to whom something belongs. It often describes a person, but you can also use it for a pet or location.

  • Whose definition: (pronoun) a question word used to determine which entity is responsible for an item
  • Who’s definition: (contraction) who is; who was; who has
Who’s on third?
Who is on third?
Whose on third?
Whose is often a replacement for who or whom. But, watch out; you may need to rephrase your sentence. You can’t necessarily swap the words.
Whose shoes are those?
Who owns those shoes?
To whom do those shoes belong?
Who’s shoes are those?

How to Remember the Difference Between Whose vs. Who’s

Here’s the easiest way to remember the difference between whose vs. who’s: Since who’s is a contraction for the phrases who is/who has/who was, try replacing the word with who is or who has. Does the sentence still make sense? Is it still grammatically correct? If yes, then the contraction who’s (with the apostrophe ‘s’) is the correct choice. If no, then whose (without the apostrophe ‘s’) is probably the word you want.

Who’s planning on staying for dinner?
Whose planning on staying for dinner?
Who is planning on staying for dinner?
Whose car is blocking the entrance?
Who is car is blocking the entrance?
Whose car is blocking the entrance?
Whose refers to possession, while who’s is a contraction that means who is or who has.
A boy holding a placard that reads
“Whose” is used to describe an entity that owns or possesses an item.

Who is Contraction in Grammar?

In English grammar, who’s (with the apostrophe ‘s’) is the contraction for who is, not the possessive pronoun whose (without the apostrophe ‘s’). Other examples of contractions, or shortened words made by combining multiple words, include don’t (do not), can’t (cannot), you’ve (you have), and I’ll (I will). Use the contraction who’s in casual speaking and writing. For more formal situations, it’s always best to spell out the contraction.

Who is the tall woman in the long coat?
Who’s the tall woman in the long coat?
My nephew, who has just left for the store, will be back in about an hour.
My nephew, who’s just left for the store, will be back in about an hour.

Whose vs. Who’s Sentences

Here’s how to use whose vs. who’s in a sentence:

Whose car were you in?
Who’s knocking on my door?
I don’t know whose keys these are, so I can’t return it.
Who’s stolen my keys?
Whose presentation did you watch?
I don’t know who’s doing that.
The receptionist asked whose coat was on the couch but none of the guests answered.
Mike, who’s invited me to his sister’s house for dinner, is a fantastic cook.
She rode home in whose car?
Whose child has a fever?
An apostrophe and an ‘s’ usually indicate ownership or possession. However, who’s breaks this rule. It’s a contraction, not a possessive word.

Who’s or Whose Birthday?

The correct answer is: whose birthday. The reason is because whose is a possessive pronoun while who’s is a contraction of the phrases who is/who has/who was. Therefore, the question is really: who does the birthday belong to? Since this is a question about possession, we know that the possessive pronoun whose is correct. Confirm this by replacing the word with who is (Who is birthday?). Since the sentence doesn’t make sense, we’re confident that whose is correct.

Whose birthday is it?
Who is birthday is it?
Whose birthday is it?

Whose Name or Who’s Name?

The correct way to phrase this is: whose name, not who’s name. The real question is about who the name belongs to. In other words, this phrase is about possession. Since whose is a possessive pronoun, it makes more sense than who’s, which is the contraction for the phrases who is and who has. Test that whose is the correct answer by replacing the word with who is. Does the sentence still make sense? If so, then the contraction who’s is the correct word. If not, then the possessive pronoun whose is correct.

Whose name did the teacher call?
Who is name did the teacher call?
Whose name did the teacher call?
A girl holding a placard that reads 'who's.
Aside from “who is,” “who’s” is also a contraction for “who was” and “who has.”

Who’s Idea of Whose Idea?

Here, the correct phrasing is whose idea, not who’s idea. The question is actually “to whom does this idea belong?” or “who came up with this idea?”. As a result, the phrase is about finding out who possesses the idea. Therefore, we need a possessive pronoun like whose instead of a contraction like who is. You can check that whose is the correct answer by replacing the word with the phrase who is. If the sentence doesn’t make sense, then whose is correct. If the sentence does name sense, then who’s is correct.

Whose idea was it to go hiking in the pouring rain?
Who is idea was it to go hiking in the pouring rain?
Whose idea was it to go hiking in the pouring rain?

Whose Fault or Who’s Fault?

Whether whose fault or who’s fault is correct depends on what you are trying to say. For example, if you are trying to understand which person the blame belongs to, then whose fault would the correct way to phrase this. This is because whose is a possessive pronoun, meaning we use it to show possession or ownership. However, if there is a person named Fault and you are trying to understand who this person is, then who’s fault would be correct. This is because the who’s is a contraction of who is or who was.

Whose fault it is, then?
Who is fault it is, then?
Whose fault it is, then?
Who’s this guy Fault I keep hearing about?
Who is this guy Fault I keep hearing about?
Whose this guy Fault I keep hearing about?

Who’s Phone or Whose Phone?

Whose phone is correct, not who’s phone. Because the phrase is about the person who owns or possesses the phone, we need a possessive pronoun. One way to confirm that whose is correct is to replace the word with the phrase who is. If the sentence still make sense, then you need who’s, or the contraction of who is. However, if the sentence doesn’t make sense, then you need to use whose.

Whose phone is this on the table?
Who is phone is this on the table?
Whose phone is this on the table?

Who’s Son or Whose Son?

In this example, the correct phrasing is whose son, not who’s son. The reason is because the sentence refers to whom the son belongs. In other words, the sentence is about possession or ownership. So, we need to use a possessive pronoun. Since whose is a possessive pronoun, it’s the correct choice. This is confusing because using an apostrophe + ‘s’ usually indicates possession. However, who’s is a contraction of who is, and not a possessive pronoun. As a result, you can check that whose is correct by replacing the word with who is. Since the sentence no longer makes sense, you know that who’s is incorrect.

Whose son built the solar-powered robot at the Science Fair?
Who is son built the solar-powered robot at the Science Fair?
Whose son built the solar-powered robot at the Science Fair?

More Whose and Who’s Sentence Examples

Here are examples of how to use whose vs. who’s in a sentence:

Whose files are those, and who’s working on them today?
Who’s wondering whose files those are?
Whose dog biscuits are those?
Who’s hungry for tacos?
Missourians often take a quick trip to St. Louis, a city whose central location makes it a prime spot for staycations.
I don’t know who’s misplaced these files.
Stella bought treats for Stanley, a cat whose favorite snack is made from bacon.
My boss told me who’s attending the meeting.
Who’s going to the beach?

Whose vs. who’s are homophones. That means the two words sound alike in speech but are spelled differently. Other examples of homophones include:

Ready for a Quick Whose vs. Who’s Quiz?

Whose vs Who's Question #1

It is acceptable to interchange “who's” and “whose” in a sentence.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is FALSE. “Whose” describes possession, while “who's” is a contraction for "who is" or "who has."

Whose Question #2

What part of speech is “whose”?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is C. As a possessive pronoun, “whose” indicates that something belongs to someone.

Who's Question #3

What does “who's” mean?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. “Who's” is a contraction of “who is.”

Whose and Who's Question #4

“Whose” and “who’s” are homophones.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. Although both words sound alike, they are spelled differently.

Whose vs Who's Question #5

Complete the sentence. ____ comb is this?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is WHOSE. Whose is used to describe an entity that owns or possesses an item.

Whose or Who's Question #6

Complete the sentence. ____ coming to the party?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is WHO'S. You can swap “who's” for “who is” in the sentence.

Read More: Who vs. Whom: The Quickest way to Avoid Looking Like a Fool

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Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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