building blocksWhom, Whose, and Who’s


Certain English words can be confusing for English-language students because they sound alike, or have similar spellings. Three common ones are whom, whose and who’s.


Whom is an object pronoun

A clause is a group of words which include a subject and a verb. There are two types.  Main clauses, which begin with a capital letter and end with a period or other form of punctuation, can stand alone as complete sentences. Subordinate clauses on the other hand, cannot stand alone as complete sentences. Instead, they give more information about a noun or verb in the main clause. Whom is a relative pronoun used to introduce subordinate clauses that refer to people, not things, as in example sentences below. Because it is an object pronoun, whom cannot be the subject of a subordinate clause. The pattern is: whom + subject + verb.

Main clause + subordinate (adjective) clause:

Isn't he the man whom we saw earlier.

Main clause + subordinate (noun) clause:

I know whom you talked to.

Whom with a preposition

Whom is often used with a preposition, as in the example sentences below. Whether the preposition comes at the beginning of a clause or at the end makes no difference to the meaning of the clause. However, placing the the preposition at the beginning makes it more formal.

That is the man about whom we spoke. (more formal)

That is the man whom we spoke about. (less formal)

Note: In informal spoken English, we are less likely to use whom. For example:

That is the man who(m) we spoke about.


Whose is used in questions to ask about possession.

Question: Whose chair is it?

Answer: It's mine.

Whose is also a relative pronoun that introduces subordinate clauses, as in the two examples below. Whose is used to show possession.

Main clause + subordinate (adjective) clause:

That's the student whose essay I corrected last night.

Do you know whose car that is?

Expressions of Quantity with “Whom” and “Whose”

Both whom and whose can be used in expressions of quantity plus “of”, such as those listed below. See the example sentences which follow.

both of a lot of several of none of
some of a few of a number of half of
most of all of two of many of

For example:

There are 16 students in my class, all of whom are very friendly.

I belong to a literary club, most of whose members are teachers.


Unlike whom and whose, who’s is not a single word, but rather, a contraction for who + is. (Who is relative pronoun which, unlike whom or whose, can be the subject of a subordinate clause.) See the example sentence.

Main clause + subordinate (noun) clause:

Do you know who's giving the lecture today?

Who’s can also be used to ask a question, as in this example.

Who’s giving the lecture today?

When you are sure that you understand the lesson, you can continue with the exercises.