'Whose' or 'Who's': Which is Correct

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 18, 2023

Which is correct: 'whose' or 'who's'? Easy: it depends on the context. Okay, I guess that makes it not so easy. But it will be once you've read this article.

In short, 'whose' is the possessive form of 'who,' and 'who's' is a contraction of 'who is' or 'who has.'

Should You Use 'Whose' or 'Who's'?

I'm excited to write about this one because it's one of the most commonly asked questions, two of the most frequently confused words, and a classic grammar conundrum.

But in reality, it's actually very simple.

What Does 'Whose' Mean?

The word whose is the possessive form of the pronoun 'who.' It can ask the question, "Who does this belong to":

Whose phone is this?

Or it refers back to something that belonged to someone:

The singer, whose voice is angelic, offered to perform an acapella.

What Does 'Who's' Mean?

The word who's is a contraction of "who is" or "who has."

For example:

Who's read Stephen King's latest book? ("who has")

Who's singing in the shower? ("who is")

The reason it is commonly used as the possessive form of the pronoun 'who' as opposed to 'whose' is because we're so used to seeing apostrophes as synonymous with possession.

But the only place when an apostrophe denotes possession is with nouns.

For example:

Bob's brother is taller than him.

The house's roof is falling apart.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Whose' and 'Who's'

'Whose' and 'who's' are pronounced the same, despite them having different meanings and being spelled differently. This makes them homophones.

The 'w' at the beginning of each word is silent. The word itself rhymes with 'blues,' 'cruise,' and 'views.' If I were in charge of spelling the words, I'd spell them like this:

[ hooz ]

The International Phonetics Alphabet spells them like this:

/ huz /

When to Use 'Whose' or 'Who's'

So as you can see, the difference between 'whose' and 'who's' is pretty obvious, and you shouldn't confuse them anymore. Still, I will show you some examples of each word used in sentences, so you can see them used in context. This should help solidify your understanding of each word.

Examples of 'Whose'

Whose terrible idea was this?

I'm sorry, whose parents are you?

Once upon a time, there was a little boy whose name was Mowgli.

Examples of 'Who's'

Who's honor do you think is at stake here?

I'm not sure who's coming today; we'll have to wait and find out.

Let me help; you're always the one who's doing everything around here.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on the difference between 'who's' and 'whose.' I hope you'll agree with me that it's actually pretty straightforward. To be sure, let's summarize:

  • 'Who's' stands for 'who is' or 'who has.'
  • 'Whose' is the possessive form of 'who.'

If you found this article helpful, you might want to check out our other articles on our Confusing Words blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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