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Whose And Who's As Confusing Words


Giyosiddin is an English language teacher and freelance writer who has been writing articles in Uzbek, Russian and English for 7 years



There are a number of word pairs which are often confused by English language learners. At one glance the differences might seem straightforward and crystal clear, but if we look at the frequency of mistakes that learners make with whose and who's, we can understand that a lot needs to be explained. Let us take a closer look at the issue and learn how to use each one of these pronouns correctly.

Whose vs Who's: Definition and Meaning

Both of them are pronouns and have similar functions. "Whose" is a relative pronoun that tells us who something belongs to or who the idea is going to be about. This pronoun is used with a noun to clarify who the object relates or belongs to:

E.g. Whose book have you borrowed?

"Who's" is a combination of two words which are contracted, it may be either "who" and "is" or "who" and "has". In this case "who" is a relative pronoun which relates to the doer or the subject of the action and when it is used in question, the answer that follows usually involves a subject pronoun (you, he) or a noun referring to a person:

E.g. A: Who's riding a bike there?

B: My brother, Ben. He's really into it.

Usage Of "Whose" With Examples

There are some ways to use whose in the question:

1. To ask about who the thing which you are asking belongs to. In this case whose helps us to determine the owner of the thing which we want to know and it is followed by a noun. Look at the examples below:

Whose jacket are you wearing?

Whose car is being serviced now?

About a dozen of your friends gave you birthday gifts. Whose gift did you like the most?

2. In some cases whose is used in context and it should refer to the object which has been mentioned in the context. In this use whose gains the absolute function and it is not necessary to use the noun after it as the context makes it clear:

E.g. We have been celebrating our friends' birthdays over the last 7 months. Whose is next?

In the above example whose refers to the word 'birthday' because the context makes it clear, so there is no need to ask "Who is going to celebrate their birthday next?'.

Usage Of "Who's" With Examples

We have defined who's as a combination of two words as a contraction form and the second component is either the main or auxiliary verb "is" or "has".

1. The following two ways are the use of who with is:

A) who+is (main verb)

Who's on duty? (Who is on duty?)

Who's with Alex at home? ( Who is with Alex at home?)

B) who+is (auxiliary verb)

Who's working on this project (is working - Present Continuous)

Who's being interviewed? (is being interviewed - Present Continuous Passive).

2. The pronoun who can also be used with has both in its primary meaning as a main verb and an auxiliary form. Because the third person form of the verb "have" is contracted in the same way as "is", it is the subject of misunderstanding in most situations.

A) who+has (main verb)

Who's got a spare pen? ( Who has got a spare pen?)

Who's the original version of Beatles album? ( Who has the original version of Beatles album?)

B) who+has (auxiliary verb)

Who's been working on this project ( has been working - Present Perfect Continuous)

Who's finished writing the essay? ( has finished- Present Perfect)

Who's been promoted recently? ( has been promoted - Present Perfect Passive)

Useful Tips To Remember The Differences

It is always a good idea to listen for the words that follow these two. Although they are pronounced identically, the difference is easily felt in the context and the examples we have looked at above. Whose is usually followed by nouns and then the auxiliary verbs, but who's already contains a verb. By knowing the contraction forms of the tenses we have mentioned in examples, it can be easier to recognize which of these confusing words is being used.