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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dr. Whose

Don't confuse who's and whose.

We are so conditioned to think that apostrophe s indicates a possessive that it is very easy to make this mistake, but who's is not a possessive. Rather, it's a contraction.

If you mean "who is" or "who has", use who's, as in "Who's Katherine's favourite dancer?" or "Who's seen Robert Tewsley dance?" or "Katherine, who's seen Robert Tewsley dance more times than she can count...."

Use whose when using "who is" or "who has" instead would sound wrong, as in statements like "Robert Tewsley, whose acting is as fabulous as his dancing..." or  "Whose version of Romeo and Juliet will he be dancing?"

(If you're wondering, "Who's Robert Tewsley?" you can find out more here and see pictures here.)


  1. Hello,

    "Katherine, who's seen Robert Tewsley dance more times than she can count...."

    I was reminded that the Greeks had 10,000 as as a counting limit, which they called "myriad". :)

  2. Nicely put, Katherine. Next, I imagine, you just have to explain it to some idiot spell-checking software.

  3. Felicity, "idiot spell-checking software" is a redundancy! ;-)
    E.T. I wish I had seen RT dance 10,000 times!


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.