Who’s got whose grammar?

The English language is a funny thing when it comes to possessions. Sometimes it’s easy to see who owns something, sometimes it’s not, and other times it’s just too confusing. One of the stranger examples is who’s versus whose.

<p>Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger, / <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net" target="_blank">FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>

Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For most other words, when it comes to singular possession you add an apostrophe and then an s. For example, the ball that belongs to the boy is the boy’s ball.

It’s supposed to be simple. Add an apostrophe at the end and then add an s. Possession is indicated. Wonderful.

But if you follow that rule, then who’s should mean the thing that belongs to who. Sadly, it’s not the case. Who’s is a contraction of who is or who has, not an indication of possession.

So…

Who’s going to the beach tomorrow?
means
Who is going to the beach tomorrow?

Frank kicked John, who’s fallen on the floor.
means
Frank kicked John, who is lying on the floor.

Lauren, who’s never been to Paris, is excited about her trip to France next year.
means
Lauren, who has never been to Paris, is excited about her trip to France next year.

But what about possession? That’s where whose comes in.

Whose indicates ownership and bucks the trend by not having an apostrophe in it. Ever.

So…

Whose dog is this that is running on the beach without a leash?
means
Who owns the dog that is running on the beach without a leash?

Frank tripped over John, whose leg is now broken.
means
Frank tripped over John and John’s leg is now broken.

Lauren is wondering whose croissant she has eaten by mistake.
means
Lauren is wondering who is the owner of the croissant she has eaten by mistake.

If you find yourself getting a bit stuck, try swapping one in for the other and use ‘who is’ or ‘who has’ instead of who’s. For example,

Who is going to the beach tomorrow?
Whose going to the beach tomorrow?

Who is works so use who’s.

Whose dog is this?
Who is dog is this?

Who is doesn’t work so go with whose.

Who’s clear on that now? 

Rule of thumb
Who’s = contraction of who is or who has
Whose = possession, use for ownership.

Posted in Blog, Grammatical Errors, Punctuation Problems Tagged with: , , , , , ,

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