What’s Correct Spelling for These Homophones?
Two of the most commonly confused words in the English language are “whose” (with an “e” and no apostrophe) and “who’s” (with an apostrophe and no “e”). What’s the difference between these homophones — words which sound the same but have different meanings — and how can we correctly decide which to use in the battle of whose vs. who’s?
Let’s learn tricks to remember! As always, I will be using my years of experience as an English teacher paired with my cartooning to create hand-sketched cute drawings to illustrate the lesson!
The Definition and Meaning of “Who’s”
The easier of the two homophones to define is “who’s.” The definition of “who’s” is that it is a contraction of “who is” or “who has” — meaning the two words are smushed together with an apostrophe.
Example Sentences Using “Who’s” Correctly
Use “who’s” wherever you mean “who is” or “who has.” Here are some examples of correct usage:
1. Who’s responsible for that apple coming to life and starting to talk to me? Is there a magician in the house right now?!
- This is asking: “who is responsible…?”
2. Children, who’s experienced a time when you’ve broken something and needed to apologize, but didn’t know how?
- This means: “who has experienced…?”
3. Who’s that grumpy octopus over there, and how can we cheer him up?
- Here, we are asking: “who is that…?”
Notice how in every single one of these examples, you can replace “who’s” with either “who is” or “who has.” Such is the beauty of a contraction! On to the sneaky homophone twin, “whose,” now…
“Whose” — Definition and Meaning
Now that we understand that “who’s” is a contraction, what does “whose” mean? “Whose” is a possessive form of the pronoun “who” and is defined as meaning: “belonging to whom.” It pertains to ownership: who owns what.
Confusing Apostrophe Use
Huh? Aren’t apostrophes usually used to indicate possession, ownership, and belonging, like “Mabel’s pants” (the pants belonging to Mabel)? Usually, yes — but NOT in the case of whose vs. who’s. This is the reverse of the usual apostrophe rule — much like the confusing “its vs. it’s” divide — in which the apostrophe is used for the contraction (who’s and it’s) but NOT for the possessive word (its and whose). Eek! Well, now we know why correct spelling of this word is such a dilemma.
Example Sentences Using “Whose” Correctly
In examining these examples, notice that “whose” is always talking about ownership or something belonging to a certain “who.” It is NEVER used to mean “who is” or “who has.”
A. Whose stinky pumpkin is reeking up the air with its putrid rotting stench?! Whoever they are, they’d better clean up this mess today!
- This is asking who the smelly pumpkin belongs to.
B. Is that the store owner whose flower crowns are so famous? If so, I want her autograph!
- Here, we are inquiring about the creator of the flower crowns: the person who owns them because she made them.
C. You see that girl over there? That’s the young woman whose magic is so strong that it calmed the giant green dragon!
- This sentence is identifying the gal who possesses the amazing magical powers.
(If you didn’t figure it out already, each of those highlighted words leads to stores for kids that feature my cartoon illustrations!) Yes, I’m an English teacher, but I’m also Mama to two young kids who enjoy funny tales…
“Whose vs. Who’s” Examples
Ready for the next level? Let’s use “whose” and “who’s” TOGETHER inside the same sentences! Buckle up, bunnies…
I. Who’s ready for some homemade ice cream? It was made by the man whose purple whale ate my car.
- In this example, we are asking “who is ready” and referring to the whale that is owned by the man.
II. Whose stinky indigo purple socks are on my chair? Who’s the rude person who keeps leaving them there? I will solve this mystery today and get revenge!
- Here, the question is who the disgusting socks belong to, and who is the naughty person who dumped them on my seat.
“Whose or Who’s” VIDEO:
Shop “Whose and Who’s” Posters:
Other English Vocab and Grammar Lessons
Homophones List and Lessons:
- “Aww” vs. “Awe”
- Everyday vs. Every Day
- Apart vs. A Part
- Flare vs. Flair
- “It’s vs. its,” “your vs. you’re,” and “they’re, there, their”
- Weather vs. Whether
- Passed vs. Past
Literary Devices and ELA Vocabulary:
- Onomatopoeia Examples
- Metacognition Definition and Strategies
- What is Context?
- Tone vs. Mood
- Juxtaposition Examples
- Liminal Space
- Foreshadowing Definition and Examples
Summary of the “Who’s or Whose” Question
In sum, the easy way to check whether it’s correct to use “whose” or “who’s” is to ask: “Can I replace this with ‘who is’ or ‘who has’ and have it still make sense?” If the answer is YES, use “who’s” because it’s a contraction of those words. If the answer is NO, use “whose” because you’re talking about something that belongs to someone or something.
I hope this “whose vs. who’s” lesson has been useful! Feel free to share the link to it and leave a comment with a response, or a request for my next English Language Arts lesson.
The author and artist, Lillie Marshall, is a National Board Certified Teacher of English who has been a public school educator since 2003, and an experienced Reiki practitioner since 2018. All art on this site is original and hand-drawn by Lillie. She launched DrawingsOf.com Educational Cartoons in 2020, building upon the success of her other sites, AroundTheWorldL.com (established 2009), TeachingTraveling.com (founded 2010), and ReikiColors.com. Subscribe to Lillie’s monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media to stay connected!