Who, whom, whose. Who, whom, whose. Say it a couple more times and you’ll start sounding like an owl.
As with everything in the English language, these words usually come with a bunch of complicated rules made by English majors. But we’re simple folk here, and we’ve got a bunch of simplified rules for how you can use these words in the right way.
Who vs. Whom
Think of them as cousins. One is the fun, cheerful, active one--the one you see hosting parties and posting about brunch on Instagram. The other one is the lazy, introverted one who’s clocked in a few thousand hours on WoW.
WHO is the fun active one. WHO does things. WHO is what you use when the action is active, as in ...
→ Bob likes to eat paste out of the jar. Bob is special.
Who is most likely to be found stuffing a crayon up his nose? Bob is most likely to be found stuffing a crayon up his nose.
WHOM, on the other hand, is the passive one. WHOM gets things done to him. WHOM is what you use when an action is being done to, with, or for a person …
→ To WHOM will Bob be running when he gets another crayon stuck in his cranium?
Bob will be running to Ms. Crabapple when he gets another crayon stuck in his cranium.
→ To WHOM will Ms. Crabapple be crying when she comes home after a long day of dealing with Bob?
Ms. Crabapple will be crying to her cat, Snuggles.
Here’s another simple tip: Notice the letter M at the end of WHOM?
• WHO can be replaced with words like HE, SHE, and THEY. Notice the lack of any letter Ms?
• WHOM can be replaced with words like HIM, HER, and US. HIM and WHOM have Ms; they go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Whose vs. Who’s
Now let’s talk about WHOSE and WHO’S.
They sound alike, but they are not. To make things simple, always think of WHO’S as WHO IS. Mentally say WHO IS when you’re thinking of putting in WHO’S in a sentence. If it doesn’t sound right, the right word to use is probably WHOSE. Check out these examples.
→ WHOSE hideous monstrosity of a cat is this?
→ WHO’S making these examples?!
Both are questions, both sound right. But the first one is asking for the owner of said monstrosity, while the second one is asking who is responsible for coming up with this stuff.
Easy, peasy, right? Now go make a bunch of sentences!