who’s vs. whose

What is the difference between who’s and whose?

Because who’s and whose have a similar appearance and are both pronounced /huz/, they can sometimes be confused for one another in writing. Another part of the problem is that we normally use “-’s” to form possession for nouns (as in Amy’s, the government’s, parent’s, etc.), so single-word determiners that indicate possession can be tricky to remember—this is the same issue many writers encounter with it’s and its.
Who’s is a contraction of the pronoun who and the verbs is or has, and it is used when you are asking about or describing a person’s actions or characteristics. For example:
  • “Find out who’s (who is) controlling the cameras.”
  • “I decided to ask Arnold, who’s (who is) much better with computers than me.”
  • Who’s (who has) figured out the answer to the first problem?”
  • “Does anyone know who’s (who has) been eating my cookies?”
The possessive determiner whose is used when you are asking about or describing a person or thing’s possession of something. For example:
  • “Does anyone know whose car (possession of car) this is?”
  • “The company, whose profits (possession of profits) have fallen since 2014, announced bankruptcy earlier today.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple trick to remember the difference; instead, we have to look at the rest of the sentence to help us determine which spelling is correct.
Who’s, which is formed from the linking verb is or the auxiliary verb has, will be the correct choice if it is followed by an adjective that describes the subject or another verb that describes the subject’s actions.
Since whose is a determiner, which functions like an adjective, it will usually be followed by the noun that it is describing.
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