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Bob Nailor

Whose Who's Whose?

The answer is simple – It’s its.

That was mean and I apologize. For many readers and even more writers, knowing when to use “whose” vs “who’s” is really quite simple by remembering a silly rule exception.

As youth, we are taught about possessives. This is Bob’s document. That is Sally’s cat. The rule is: Use an “apostrophe s” to indicate ownership. So obviously “who’s” would be correct – WRONG!

Remember the old adage – There is an exception to every rule?

So it is with this.

As we learned to read we were introduced to ‘cannot’ and ‘he is’ plus others. To make the words easier, we were taught about contractions; eliminate a couple of letters and stick in an apostrophe. Therefore, phrases like “cannot” becomes “can’t” and “he is” becomes “he’s.”

Want to play with “it’s” and “its” for a little while? One is a contraction, another is possessive.

Did I mention something about an adage and exceptions to the rule?

Right. “its” is possessive and “it’s” is the contraction. So much for the possession rule.

Rule 1: “apostrophe s” is used to denote ownership.
Except for “who’s” and “it’s” – they become “whose” and “its.”

Rule 2: use an apostrophe to concatenate two words.
So “it is” and “who is” becomes “it’s” and “who’s.”

Therefore “who’s” is a contraction of “who is” or “who has” and “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.”

So, to make things easier to understand, use the following guidelines for these words…

     1. If you can say “who is” or “who has” – then use “who’s” in the sentence.
     2. If you can say “it is” – then use “it’s” in the sentence.
     3. Otherwise, use “whose” or “its” in the sentence.

Really? You didn’t understand that? Try the following sentences---

(Who's/Whose) car is that in the driveway?
You wouldn’t say “who is” or “who has” so obviously “Whose” is the correct choice.

(It's/Its) the correct way to do things.
You would say “it is” so therefore “it’s” is the proper choice.

What is (it's/its) priority?
Obviously “it is” doesn’t fit, so “its” is correct.

(Who's/Whose) watching the baby?
With this sentence, “who is” is correct, so “Who’s” is the answer.

I hope the above has helped to clarify where to use “whose,” “who’s,” “its,” and “it’s.” After all, think about it this way – It’s whose job to make it right? Yours!

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