When to Use ‘Whose’: Simplifying Possession in English

Whose article are you reading?

It is a blog post on WritersGig.

The aim is to educate you on the usage of whose in a sentence.

If you are a writer or one seeking to elevate your writing game, this article will be helpful.

What part of speech is Whose?

Whose is a relative pronoun. It is the possessive form of the pronoun who.

It is also used in the same way as other possessive pronouns like my and their when you don’t know the real owner of a thing.

What are the functions of whose?

According to Langeek, these are the functions of whose;

  • Interrogative Determiner
  • Interrogative Pronoun
  • Relative Pronoun
  • Possessive Relative Determiner

You may want to check out When to Use an Apostrophe: A Beginner’s Guide to Showing Possession and Omitting Letters

As an Interrogative Determiner

It is used to ask about someone’s possessions usually followed by a noun or noun phrase.

Whose comes at the beginning of an interrogative sentence.

How does this work?

The possessive pronoun, for example, mine is omitted and replaced with whose at the beginning of the sentence.

The noun phrase or noun comes after whose.

The verb is inverted with the subject.

Example; Whose book is this?

Whose as an Interrogative pronoun

As an interrogative pronoun, whose is used to ask about someone’s possession.

Here, it is followed by a noun or possessive pronouns and replaces the possessive determiners.

The interrogative pronoun is at the beginning of the sentence.

Examples; Whose are these?

As a Relative Pronoun

It shows possession and follows an adjectival relative clause.

Rule: whose is the only relative pronoun that comes before a noun or noun phrase.


The woman whose hair is red is my friend.

Whose as a Possessive Relative Determiner

It shows possession.

Here is written before a nominal relative clause.

A nominal relative clause acts as either a subject or object of the independent clause.

For example; I don’t know whose song it is.

As a possessive relative determiner, it comes at the beginning of the relative clause.

It is followed by a noun.

When to Use Whose

These are the rules to use whose.

Whose as a word for question on possession

Whose is a word used to ask a question about possession. It is followed by a noun or noun phrase.

Don’t confuse who’s with whose. Who’s is the short form for who is.


  • Whose Granny is this?
  • Whose house was used to shoot the skit?

Whose as an Indirect Question

You can use it in indirect questions.


Nely wondered whose the key was.

Whose to introduce a relative clause

You can use whose to introduce a relative clause that indicates possession by people, things, or animals.


  • Grace has a 15-year-old nephew whose ambition is to be a dancer.
  • This is the film whose title I couldn’t remember.

When not to use Whose

Whose is not used when you mean who’s which is who is

Example: Who’s at the door?

Read also: When To Use A Semicolon vs Colon: Breaking Down Semicolons vs. Colons In Everyday Writing


If you have read up to this point, congratulations, we applaud you. You should have understood how to use whose. Now, we have empowered you to use it correctly.

Remember, whose is a possessive pronoun that means belonging to whom or of whom.

FAQS on usage of whose

How do I know when to use whose?

Whose is used to indicate ownership or possession. If you’re asking about ownership, go with whose.

Are “whose” and “who’s” interchangeable in sentences?

No, “whose” and “who’s” are not interchangeable. They serve different purposes. “Whose” indicates ownership, while “who’s” is about identity or actions.


Cambridge Dictionary – when to use whose

Grammarly – how to use whose

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