Who's Your Daddy? Learn The Difference Between Whose And Who's

An apostrophe in English can indicate either possession or missing letters. One example that everyone gets wrong is it's versus its. A similar example that goes awry almost as often is whose versus who's.

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This is what you need to know. Who's is short for "who is". (It can also be short for "who has", but we firmly advise against that usage in written English, because it's awkward and ambiguous.)

Whose means (per our old friend and ultimate arbiter the Macquarie Dictionary) "of, belonging or related to whom". So you would write

The man whose teeth were exactly all alike

You would not write:

The man who's teeth were exactly all alike

You would write

That's the woman who's angling for the CEO role.

You would not write:

That's the woman whose angling for the CEO role.

In this case, I'd argue that using the full "who is" would make the sentence read more pleasantly.

Not sure which one to use? Expand out "who's" phrase to "who is" and see if it makes sense. It's not a hard rule to absorb, and accuracy matters.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


Comments

    Not sure why writing "who's" for "who has" is awkward or ambiguous, e.g. "Who's got time for that?", "Who's got the ball?".

    there/their/they're
    your/you're
    where/were/we're
    would of/should of/could of?

    Last edited 03/02/15 5:39 am

    Angus, these articles are good. Don't stop, please.

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