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1 min read
Amanda Miller
June 30, 2023
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1 min read

The difference between "whose" and "who’s"

Looking into "who's" and "whose," this guide distinguishes between the two and simplifies these commonly confused terms through useful examples.
The difference between "whose" and "who’s"

The difference between "whose" and "who’s"

Knock, knock. Who's there? Maybe it's the apostrophe that tells you that "who's" is short for "who is." But...whose idea was that? Who had the confusing idea to make these words sound the same?

To clarify, "whose" indicates ownership, and "who's" is an abbreviation. Let’s take a deeper look at this distinction.

Using "who's"

Who's confused? Not you!

With an apostrophe, "who's" is always an abbreviation for "who is" or "who has." Of course, apostrophes show possession, but they also replace letters in an abbreviation, especially for pronouns like "who" and "it." The apostrophe indicates the missing letter.


When an apostrophe is used in conjunction with a pronoun, it often shortens the word, as shown in the examples from these tales:

"Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?" (Three Little Pigs)

"Who's been eating my porridge?" (Goldilocks and the Three Bears)

"Who's that man sitting beside your wife?"


Understanding "whose"

However, "whose" is like "his" or "hers." It indicates possession without an apostrophe because it is already a possessive pronoun. Possessive pronouns do not need apostrophes! "Whose" is the possessive form of "who" and "which." "Whose" can thus refer to ideas where "of which" does not fit, as in a question whose answer is required.


Here are better examples:

"Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come." (Victor Hugo)

"Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (TV show)

"I know whose sunglasses these are."

If you ever forget, remember that "who's" is often a question: it has a little space waiting for an answer. The apostrophe stands for "is." "Whose" owns everything. It is possessive, like a child who has all the toys close to him. In short, "who's" is short for "who is," and "whose" indicates ownership.