1. Whose is that car?
  2. Whose car is that?

Which of the two is the most natural way of saying it? I think #2 but may I be mistaking?

  • It may depend on dialect and personality, but I prefer #2 because it starts with the subject of the question.
    – Andrew
    Jan 14 '18 at 13:51
  • 1
    You can say either of these. Both are fine. There is no mistake.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jan 14 '18 at 13:55
  • 3
    Number 2 would usually be more natural, especially for a casual inquiry. But if, for instance, you saw the latest mega-impressive Ferrari and placed a lot of emphasis on the word whose, you might well ask: Whose is that car? Jan 14 '18 at 14:34
  • 2
    Both are fine, and to all intents and purposes they mean the same. But that's not the case with, for example, Whose wife is that? (said while pointing to some woman at a party, perhaps), where it would be very unusual to ask Whose is that wife? Jan 14 '18 at 15:57
  • 2
    To the extent that there's a difference in emphasis, it's that #1 focuses more on the car, where #2 focuses more on the unknown owner. Thus the "car-centric" version might be more likely in contexts where the preceding utterances have involved [other] cars, for example. Jan 14 '18 at 16:15

The second form is preferred, but there's enough leeway that the first example is not wrong grammatically.


The term "whose is" is an interrogative pronoun.

The term "whose car" is an interrogative adjective.

See http://www.myenglishteacher.net/adjectiveclauseswithwhose.html (near the bottom) for an example, there are a few webpages that cover this but it's difficult to both construct a suitable search term and find an example (quickly).

  1. Try replacing the word "whose" with the owner's name.

Whose is that car?

Thus it becomes: "Tom's is that car.", or more properly (to demonstrate the preference) "Tom's is.", which is shortened to "Tom's.".

Whose car is that?

Thus it becomes: "Tom's car is that.", or more properly (to demonstrate the preference) "Tom's car.", which is shortened to "Tom's.".

  1. See the comment to the question, from @Fumblefingers:

Whose is that wife?

Thus it becomes: "Tom's is that wife.", or more properly (to demonstrate the preference) "Tom's is.", which is shortened to "Tom's.".

Whose wife is that?

Thus it becomes: "Tom's wife is that.", or more properly (to demonstrate the preference) "Tom's wife.", which is shortened to "Tom's.".

  1. A further example of shortening to derive the preferred form:

Whose is that car? - "Whose is?"

Tom's is, or more simply Tom's.

Whose car is that? - "Whose car?"

Tom's car, or more simply Tom's.

So if you say "Whose is" you still must introduce the object (or manually gesture).

If you simply say "Whose car?" you neither need say more nor gesture at either the vehicle nor a specific person (to direct the question to a specific vehicle or specific person, assuming both are understood).

  1. We can also lengthen the sentence to determine which is more awkward:

Whose is that car that is blue?

  • "Whose is (that) blue (car)?", see that now you wouldn't even want to have "is" or "is that" in the sentence.

Tom's is, or more simply Tom's.

Whose car is that?, which would become: "Who's blue car is that?" (or more awkwardly "Whose car is that which is blue?").

  • "Whose blue car?"

-- Thus, the second form is preferred.

Let's get the wife doing something, about which to further the inquiry:

Whose is that wife dancing? or Whose is that dancing wife?

Whose wife dancing is that? or Whose dancing wife is that?

Notice how the first form is slightly more derogatory, if you are speaking to the owner of the car about his poor parking or choice of color you might get away with saying it that way (and maybe not).

Notice how the second form is less derogatory, it might be neutral or even complimentary (it would depend upon what she was doing, and how well or in what state).

You would probably want to be cautious whom you asked, and how you asked, about someone's wife; but the same might be said for some people's vehicle.

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