Who Is Who’s Whose?
by Owen Fourie
It is time to unmask the mysterious character whose at the center of so many searches—Who’s Whose. Who is he?
Did you spot the error in the opening statement?
Look again. It is a common mistake. You will not find this error in the Who’s Who publications that give us information about famous people or a particular group of people. You will find it in many comments that are written on the Internet.
If you aren’t careful, you’ll even find it in your own writing. It is an error that is easily made.
Let’s return to the opening statement. This error is there. Here is the correction:
It is time to unmask the mysterious character who’s at the center of so many searches—Who’s Whose.
Here is the information you need to avoid making this common error.
Make a clear distinction between who’s and whose
Who’s is a contraction of who is or, sometimes, who has.
- Who’s going to the party? (who is)
- Who’s your favorite actor? (who is)
- That’s your sister who’s making that noise. (who is)
- Her uncle, who’s a professional athlete, will train us. (who is)
- Who’s finished their homework? (who has)
- I hope that no one who’s gone to the party will find it boring. (who has)
Of course, in formal writing, you should avoid contractions and write who is or who has.
Whose is the possessive form of who or which.
- Whose party is it?
- Whose choice of favorite actor do you like?
- Whose sister is making that noise?
- Whose uncle is a professional athlete?
- Chloe, whose work is excellent, has finished her homework.
- It is unlikely that the house whose windows were broken will be the venue of another party.
The use of whose speaks of something belonging to somebody or something. In the above examples, the noise belongs to somebody (your sister), the broken windows belong to something (the house), and so on.
How to avoid confusing who’s and whose
To avoid confusing who’s and whose in your writing,
- remember that who’s means who is;
- test your sentences by saying who is when you read who’s;
- say who is even when you read whose. It will sound wrong if whose is the correct word.
Here are examples of such testing:
- Who’s going to the party? Who is going to the party? Who is is correct.
- Whose party is it? Who is party is it? That is nonsense, so whose is correct.
- Whose going to the party? Who is going to the party? Whose is incorrect, so use who’s: Who’s going to the party?
- Who’s party is it? Who is party is it? That is nonsense, so use whose: Whose party is it?
Whose mistake will it be and who’s going to regret it if you get who’s and whose confused in your writing? Only you, but now you don’t have to be confused.
Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome. Are there other words that confuse you? Ask here for clarification.
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