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Can “Whose” be Used for Things or Objects on GMAT


This short video breaks a common myth. It explains where and how, the term, "whose", can be used for things and objects on GMAT sentence correction.


Can "Whose" be Used for Things or Objects


There is a persistent grammatical myth that the word "whose" can only be used to refer to people and not inanimate objects. However, this common assumption is incorrect, and buying into it can trip you up in your GMAT sentence correction. In this short article, we will take a look at the usage of the word "whose" to understand where and how the word "whose" can be used to refer to things and objects.

To begin with, you must understand that when it is used as an interrogative pronoun, the word "whose" can indeed be followed by a person as well as a thing but it must refer to a person. Let us consider two examples of the word "whose" being used as an interrogative pronoun.

Direct example: Whose mother is inquiring?

Indirect example: Whose bike is creating the noise?

In both of these sentences, the word "whose" is used as an interrogative pronoun; this means that it is used to ask the question "To who does this belong?" At first glance, the main difference between these sentences seems to be that in the first example the word "whose" refers to a person, and in the second example, it refers to an object. However, a closer reading of these sentences will show that both instances of the word "whose" actually refer to a second entity. In the first example, the word "whose" actually refers to the mother's child and in the second example, the word "whose" refers to the bike's owner, who will be a person, not the bike itself. Thus, from these examples, we can see that when the word "whose" is used as an interrogative pronoun, it will always refer to a person, even if it is followed by a thing because "whose" will always be used to refer to someone who has some form of relation to whatever follows it.

However, the usage of the word "whose" is not limited to interrogative pronouns; "whose" can also be used as a relative pronoun, one used to connect a clause or phrase to a noun or pronoun. When the word "whose" is used as a relative pronoun, it can be followed by a person or a thing and refer to either one. Let us take a look at two examples of such usage:

Example 1. The lady whose child is crying needs hot water.

Example 2. The bike whose silencer is dysfunctional is creating the noise.

In sentence one, "whose" clearly refers to a person and in sentence two, it refers to the bike. As both of these sentences are grammatically correct, we can see that there is indeed a situation in which the word "whose" can refer to things and objects as well as people. To summarize, when the word "whose" is used as an interrogative pronoun, it can only refer to a person; however, when it is used as a relative pronoun, the word "whose" can indeed refer to things and objects.

This article has deliberately been kept brief; for a more elaborate explanation, please refer to Experts' Global's Stage One Sentence Correction videos.

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