Whose is the possessive form of who, while who’s is a contraction linking the words who is or who has. Whose and who’s are an example of what we call homophones—words that sound the same but have different meanings.
Just like other homophones, these two words, no matter how simple they are, can cause quite a bit of confusion for writers.
Whose vs. Who’s
A lot of people find whose and who’s especially confusing because oftentimes, an apostrophe followed by an ‘s’ indicates the possessive form of a word: the man’s bag, the dog’s ball.
In this case, however, “whose” is the possessive, while the apostrophe in “who’s” serves to denote a contraction—think of it like “don’t” (do not), “doesn’t” (does not), or “it’s” (it is).
When to Use “Whose”
The word whose is the possessive form of the pronoun who, much like “his” and “hers.” We use these kinds of pronouns when we’re asking whom something belongs to.
- Whose dog is this?
- Whose turn is it to wash the dishes?
- When I find out whose package this is, I’ll deliver it right away.
When to Use “Who’s”
The word who’s is a contraction, which means it’s two words squished together. It is made up of the words who + is, or who + has.
- After an hour of
waiting,I finally heard Mom shout “Who’s hungry?”
- I’m no longer sure who’s to blame for this chaos.
- Who’s coming to the party tonight?
It Pays to Know the Difference
It’s easy to confuse words that sound alike but have different meanings and functions in a sentence—and it’s equally easy to feel like it doesn’t matter. However, it is essential for writers to have a mastery of homophones such as whose and who’s; mixing them up will affect the quality of your work and turn off agents, editors, and potential readers.
Are there other homophones that get you confused every time you write? Let us know in the comments below!
For more tips on common but tricky word usage, we recommend these TCK articles:
- Its or It’s: Grammar Explained by an Expert
- Affect vs. Effect: Word Usage Explained
- Get Rid of Weasel Words to Improve Your Writing
- Know the Difference: Who or Whom?
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.