Today’s post will discuss those tricky “who” words. I actually had to ask the difference between “who’s” and “whose” myself recently, and now I’ll never live it down (apparently it’s hysterical when an English major needs help with English–who knew?). Perhaps even worse than the whole “who’s”/”whose” issue is the “who”/”whom” issue. So if you’ve ever doubted yourself about these words, I suggest you keep reading. 😀
Whose and who’s
These two words are actually pretty simple once you learn them (and remember them!). I know who’s has an apostrophe-“s”, which looks like it should be a possessive (much like Kelly’s). However, in the case of “who,” the apostrophe-“s” works as a contraction. Who’s is actually the same as “Who is.” So when you’re saying a knock-knock joke, remember that you’re asking “Who’s there?” as in “Who is there?”
Whose on the other hand, is the possessive. This works for questions like “Whose cat is this?” You want to know who the cat belongs to, not who it is. 😉
Who and whom
These two aren’t quite as simple. Before we get into these, let’s look at the basic components of a sentence.
What makes a sentence?
Sentences are comprised of a subject, verb, and object. The subject is the main part of the sentence and is always a noun. The verb is the action of the sentence, and the object is what the subject is enacting upon or doing to the object. This sounds much dirtier than it actually is. 😉 Let’s look at some examples:
- Kelly (subject) went to (verb) the mall (object).
- You (subject) like (verb) grapes (object).
- I (subject) eat (verb) pizza (object).
I can just hear you saying, “Um, Kelly? I thought we were talking about who and whom?” Believe me, we are. Because we took a little time to go over that, this next part will be much easier to understand. You use who when referring to the subject of a sentence and whom when referring to the object. The easiest example to use with this is “I (subject) love (verb) you (object).” Yes, “I love you.”
If you want to discuss the subject, you would ask “Who loves you?” If you want to discuss the object, you would ask “Whom do you love?”
Huh. Still confusing isn’t it? Well try to remember this trick–whom has an “m” at the end of it, right? So does him. To help you choose between who and whom, ask yourself if you would reply to what you’re saying with “he” or “him.” So let’s look at those previous questions again. “Who loves you?” You would reply “HE loves me.” Since the reply doesn’t use “him,” you know the question should be asked with who. When looking at “Whom do you love?” the answer would be, “I love HIM.” Since you answer with “him,” you know to use whom.
Let’s look at some examples:
- To whom does this belong? (It belongs to HIM)
- Who wants cake? (HE wants cake)
- To whom it may concern: (It may concern HIM)
- Who needs a pencil? (HE needs a pencil)
Who’s and Whose are pretty easy to remember once you actually learn them (and personally, I was never taught how to use them). You’re going to have a harder time with Who and Whom, but if you remember the “he/him” trick, it should get you through and help you figure out which word to use. Good luck!