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Commonly Confused Words: Who's vs. Whose


When should I use ‘who’s’ and when should I use ‘whose’?
The word who’s is a contraction of who is or who has. A contraction is a shortened version of a word created by the omission of a sound. In writing, the omission of a sound (which is usually a vowel) is marked with an apostrophe.

Here is who’s used in some example sentences:

  • Do you know who’s coming to the party?
  • Who’s finished their maths homework?
  • Emma, who’s really good at spelling, will be teaching the class today.

Click here to find the Spellzone vocabulary lists featuring the word who’s.

The word whose is used to ask or indicate which person something belongs to or is associated with.

Here is whose used in some example sentences:

  • Whose party is it?
  • Emma, whose spelling is excellent, will be teaching the class today.
  • I found this scarf on the bench – do you know whose it is?

Click here to find the Spellzone vocabulary lists featuring the word whose.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between these words?
Rather than coming up with a mnemonic, the best way to check you have the right word is to substitute who is/has into your sentence and see if it still makes sense. You should use the word who’s if it does, and whose if it doesn’t.

Let’s try this with our first set of example sentences:

  • Do you know who is coming to the party?
  • Who has finished their maths homework?
  • Emma, who is really good at spelling, will be teaching the class today.

Now let’s try this with our next set of example sentences:

  • Who is party is it?
  • Emma, who is spelling is excellent, will be teaching the class today.
  • I found this scarf on the bench – do you know who is it is?

As you can see, the first group of sentences make sense (so you should use who’s) but the second group don’t (so you should use whose). Usually, if there is already a verb in your sentence, you should use whose and not who’s.

Where can I find other posts about easy-to-confuse words?
In this article, we look at three words with apostrophes that are easy to mix up with other similar-sounding ones. You may also find the following articles useful:

Where can I find other posts about easy-to-confuse words?

What words do you constantly mix up? Let us know and we’ll cover them in our Commonly Confused Words series.

Have a great week!

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary


05 Apr 2016
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