I often hear people say something like

For whose benefit is that?

Should it not be

For whomse benefit is that

Who -> Whom
Whose -> Whomse

I know "whomse" is not a real word. My question is: why doesn't it exist?


3 Answers 3


The easiest way to think about this is to compare to he him his:

Who gets the benefit? He gets the benefit.

To whom does the benefit accrue? The benefit accrues to him.

For whose benefit is that? That is for his benefit.

For whomse benefit is that? That is for hims benefit.

Obviously that last is unnecessary/wrong—in place of hims (or him's) we have his, and in place of whomse (or whom's) we have whose. (Also, sound aside, whose is no more related to who's than his is to he's.)

That's the quick-and-dirty, functional answer; it's also accurate that whose and whom evolved alongside each other, subject to different influences than what might make sense from our modern English point of view. From the OED Online:

whose, pron. Etymology: Middle English hwās, later hwǭs, whǭs, altered form of hwas, hwes, Old English hwæs (< **χwasa*) genitive of hwá and hwæt, through the influence of hwā, hwǭ who pron., hwām, hwǭm whom pron. (Later Middle English whas probably represents an unstressed variant.)

—"whose, pron." OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 20 August 2016.

  • 3
    This is a great explanation in my opinion, thank you Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 3:39
  • 1
    It does raise other questions though... Where does the "e" in "whose" come from? If it actually means "who's", and and the word "his" doesn't have an "e", then it doen't really seem necessary.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 7:32
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    Next question: Why is Hims not a word? Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 14:16
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    Huh. After reading this, I think I may have been using "who's" when I should have been using 'whose'.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 1:17
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    @Pureferret Isn't hims what you have when there are lots of him? ;) Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 2:59

There aren't two different nominative/objective pairs

Who -> Whom
Whose -> *Whomse, *Whom's, etc.

Instead, there's three choices

  • Who - Nominative
  • Whom - Objective
  • Whose - Possessive

Who can't be both objective and possessive.

  • 5
    Times like these I wish I could accept two answers. Thanks for the explanation; it does feel if I say something like "For who(m)se dog did you buy the collar" is is both objective and possessive, but that's probably just an error in the way my brain "feels" about the sentence haha. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 3:39
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    @AlbertRenshaw: Examples of nominative and objective: I like her. She ignores me. Who likes whom?   Examples of possessive: My dog ate my homework. Our team visited their stadium. Tomorrow, their team will visit our stadium.   See how the possessive is the same for the subject and the object.  (Indirect object and object of preposition are no different: He gave her a ring. His father proposed to his mother.) Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 8:21
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    @AlbertRenshaw: No, your brain is correct: in for whose dog, the noun group whose dog is together the object of the preposition; but internally, inside the noun group, whose is a possessive noun modifying dog. So there are both an object and a possessive/genitive there, though not at the same level. But the object is only indicated at the group level, and the group as a whole cannot show object status—except when the entire group is a single word whom. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 13:05
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    +1. This, unlike the accepted answer, is an explanation. Commented May 10, 2017 at 3:05

Whose is (originally and now) the genitive of who. From Etymonline:

whose: genitive of who; from Old English hwæs, genitive of hwa (see who).

In all Indo-European languages that I know, a genitive modifies a noun but does not agree with this noun, not even in languages with elaborate paradigms. In other words, the form of the genitive doesn't change when the form of the noun it belongs to changes. An example from Latin:

Magna Minerva est dea. "The great Minerva is a goddess."

Amicus Vulcanus est deus. "Friend Vulcanus is a god."

Vulcanus est amicus Minervae. "Vulcanus is Minerva's friend."

Video amicum Minervae. "I see Minerva's friend."

As you see, the form of the genitive doesn't change, while the noun that the genitive modifies (amicus/amicum) changes form to indicate that it is subject or object, respectively. Only adjectives can change their form if they belong to a noun, not genitives. It is the same in English.

  • Your argument is invalid: cf Est amicus meus vs Video amicum meum. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 6:28
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    Also, *whomse does exist in, say, Russian "Чья это книга" vs "Чью книгу ты читаешь" (Whose book is this vs *Whomse book are you reading) Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 6:35
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    meum, tuum, suum, nostrum, vostrum should perhaps be considered adjectives that have taken the place of genitive pronouns, rather than as pronouns themselves. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 8:48
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    @GeorgyIvanov: Possession can be indicated in other ways than through a genitive. As Anton says, meus etc. are adjectives, not genitives. The genitive of tu is rarely used, but it is tui, and it behaves like any other genitive. Your Russian example is very interesting! I don't know any Russian, but are those true genitives? Or could they be classified as something, such as possessive adjectives or suffixed words? Still, that doesn't mean they wouldn't be relevant. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 14:12
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    @GeorgyIvanov: Ah, I see. I assumed, but I suppose I should have added that to my answer. Done. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 1:55

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