Why does 'whose' no longer precede an article? If 'whose' is equivalent to 'of which', it should be allowed to, should it not ?

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    Some of the commonest – we often think simplest – words are hardest to define. If you've come across a dictionary definition of 'whose' suggesting 'of which', it's a best attempt. But still a poor one. Here, as with most 'function words', the usage of the word is a far better way of characterising it than an attempt to 'give a definition'. (J Lawler would be proud of me.) It is a relative pronoun showing possession. See here. Apr 30, 2014 at 8:31
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    As with all other possessive determiners, whose in itself indicates inherent definiteness. That means that it cannot be used with articles, neither indefinite nor definite. Just like you can’t say “my a house” or “my the house”, only “my house”, you can’t say “whose a/the house?”, only “whose house?”. Apr 30, 2014 at 8:45
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    @Janus Quite right. 'Whose' is far more commonly used as a determiner than as a pronoun. Whose pencil is this? v Whose is this? Replacing 'Whose is this? by 'Of whom is this?', one wonders why OP thinks articles have ever been involved at all. Apr 30, 2014 at 9:00
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    Ah, I think it's the different roles of 'of which' that are adding to the confusion. 'I planted some seeds, some of which the birds ate.' Here, 'of which' is not replaceable by 'whose'. 'The bird of which the belly was biggest' is an awkward equivalent of 'The bird whose belly was biggest', and here, if one's citing 'exact replacements', 'of which the' = 'whose'. OP's dictionary was saving on ink. Apr 30, 2014 at 9:29
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    Just because two words or phrases have equivalent meaning, does not mean that they necessarily have the same grammar.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 30, 2014 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


While some dictionaries will state a definition of whose to mean of whom or of which, it is always best to also see how that definition works, rather than looking at those words and getting confused.

  • Whose lunch box is this?’ the teacher asked.

  • The children scratched their heads, wondering whose it was.

  • Peter Johnson was a very important businessman whose particular attention Charlotte did not readily favour.

In these three examples, an article does not follow whose because, as Janus and Edwin have noted above, whose by itself is an adequate determiner for the object and any my, the, a, this, or every is not necessary to convey further ownership.

Not to be confused with who’s, which can be followed by an article.

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