Whose or who’s – what is the difference between them?
Here comes another pair of homonyms — words with identical pronunciation — whose and who’s. They may look similar, but their meaning is entirely different, and they are often misused. Let us have a closer look at each of them and see how to apply whose and who’s in the correct way.
Whose or who’s? Rooting in ‘who’
Both whose and who’s derive from the pronoun ‘who’, and just like ‘who’ they can function as interrogative pronouns (i.e. to ask questions), or relative pronouns (i.e.to add information), depending on the context.
If you want to learn more about who-related dilemmas, we recommend another article:
Whose or who’s – the meaning and the correct use of whose
Whose is a possessive adjective, meaning ‘belonging to somebody’ or ‘relating to somebody’. That is to say, it expresses ownership, as well as association or agency. Have a look at the literary example:
She is a woman of honour and smartness whose wild leaves out luck, always taking risks, and there is something in her brow now, that only she can recognize in a mirror.
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, 1992
The meaning and the correct use of who’s
Who’s often appears in informal texts. It is quite a common contraction of two phrases: ‘who is’ and ‘who has’. See the examples illustrating who’s in the two contexts:
You can love somebody without it being like that. You keep them a stranger, a stranger who’s a friend.
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories, 1958
It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that.
Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 1999
If you want to make sure whether you used your apostrophes correctly, there is a simple method. Just try to replace your who’s with ‘who is’ or ‘who has’. If the sentence still makes sense, your who’s is in the right place.