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Who's vs. Whos vs. Whose (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use who's, Whos, and whose with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

One of the classic comedy routines of all time is Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" bit. If you have a few minutes, it's worth a watch.

In the skit, Costello gets a little confused about who is playing each position on the baseball field, including Who himself. However, it's not unusual for people to get their uses of who's, Whos, and whose mixed up as well.

(Grammar rules for writers.)

So in this post, we're going to look at when it's appropriate to use who's, Whos, and whose.

Who's vs. Whos vs. Whose

Who's is a contraction of the words "who and is." So "Who's on first" means "Who is on first." In the comedy skit above, that is both a question and an answer (because the person who plays first base is named Who).

(Fact vs. Fiction: Keeping a Military Thriller Thrilling.)

Whos, meanwhile, is a group of people from the town of Whoville, featured in a few Dr. Seuss books. The fictional characters from Whoville are named Whos.

Finally, whose is most often used as a possessive adjective to indicate something that belongs to a person. For instance, I just mentioned Dr. Seuss, whose children's books have entertained millions of readers over the years. The word whose can also be used as a pronoun (as in the question, "Whose was it?"). 

Make sense?

whos_vs_whos_vs_whose_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Here are a few examples of who's, Whos, and whose:

Correct: Who's coming with me to the store?
Incorrect: Whos coming with me to the store?
Incorrect: Whose coming with me to the store?

Correct: The Grinch originally hated the Whos but then came to appreciate them.
Incorrect: The Grinch originally hated the Who's but then came to appreciate them.
Incorrect: The Grinch originally hated the whose but then came to appreciate them.

Correct: I'm not happy with the person whose trash is all over my desk.
Incorrect: I'm not happy with the person who's trash is all over my desk.
Incorrect: I'm not happy with the person Whos trash is all over my desk.

Correct: Who's afraid of the Whos whose singing warms the heart of a mean, old Grinch?

The apostrophe is always a quick clue to dealing with a contraction for "who is." For whose, I think of the close spelling to those that belong to somebody. And that leaves the fictional Whos from Whoville.

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Grammar and Mechanics

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

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