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I wrote:

I read nearly all the contents of the websites about the war between the Nazi and Russian armies. I don't know who's fault was that! Hitler or Stalin?

  • Was it whose fault or who's fault?
  • What is the construction and grammar of each?
  • Did you realise that the title is in the present tense whilst the citation uses the past? – Mari-Lou A Feb 21 '18 at 8:35
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I don't know who's/whose fault was that! Hitler or Stalin?

First off, you need the possessive pronoun of who in front of the noun fault; that's whose, not who's. Who's is the contraction of who is or who has.

Second, the sentence is not in the interrogative. So there should be no sign of interrogation (?). The sentence should be rewritten as follows:

I don't know whose fault that was, Hitler's or Stalin's.

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The primary thing to know here is that:

  1. Who's is a contraction for "who is" or "who has" (mostly followed by "got")
  2. Whose is a possessive pronoun.

So, to understand, that's what you get with each:

  1. Who's fault? - Who is fault?
  2. Whose fault? - Fault of which person?
  • I appreciate your explanation but… “Who's fault? - Who is fault?” Can this form be correct in any case? If yes, how does it differ from the other option? – Melebius Feb 21 '18 at 7:42
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    @Melebius You do realise that "Who's fault?" is rather awkward. don't you? "Who's Fault?" is okay if Fault is a name. – SovereignSun Feb 21 '18 at 7:55
  • "Who is fault" is incorrect, which helps in checking whether you need "whose" or "who's". If you expand "who's" to "who is" you see at once that an incorrect sentence is formed. So, it' can't be "who's." – tenebris2020 Feb 21 '18 at 19:33
  • @tenebris2020 You're right. "whose" should be the OP's choice. – SovereignSun Feb 22 '18 at 3:39
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I believe it should be whose fault that was, and also Hitler's or Stalin's?

  • 3
    Welcome to ELL. The goal of Stack Exchange is to provide definitive answers to substantive questions; as such, we expect answers to explain, not merely to state. Why is it *whose? What is the difference between them? What are some examples of its usage? I strongly encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance. – choster Feb 20 '18 at 15:21
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Where did the OP read this comment? Users should always cite their sources.

These type of spelling mistakes are very very common, especially in social media. I call this example a spelling error rather than a grammatical one because "whose" and "who's" are pronounced identically.

The unknown author of the unverified sentence should have spelt (spelled if you're an American speaker) it whose. By the way, the punctuation is also a bit off, but let's presume the author says "Hitler or Stalin?" with the intonation rising as if he were asking the full question, "Was it Hitler's or Stalin's [fault]?".

If we write the full form we get the following

  1. I don't know who has fault was that! Hitler or Stalin? (NO)
  2. I don't know who is [who's] fault was that! Hitler or Stalin? (NO)

Both are very ungrammatical. No.1 makes no sense whatsoever. The auxiliary have should be in the simple past or past perfect, e.g. "I don't know who had (had) the most fault. Hitler or Stalin?

No.2 is also grammatical, the first auxiliary should not be in the present tense as if the dictators were still leading their countries today. Note the second auxiliary that follows (was) is in the past tense, so in the same sentence we have an "is" and a "was". The only way to make that sentence grammatical would be to add the preposition at between the auxiliary verb and the noun fault and modify the predicate

I don't know who was at fault there. Hitler or Stalin? (YES)

In brief, the correct spelling is the determiner whose, that means “of whom or which (used to indicate that the following noun belongs to or is associated with the person or thing mentioned in the previous clause).” adding the possessive apostrophe to the proper nouns: Hitler and Stalin would be advisable in my opinion, but not strictly necessary.

I don't know whose fault that was. {Was it} Hitler's or Stalin's? (YES)

  • What about the "was that" vs "that was"? – SovereignSun Feb 21 '18 at 8:17
  • @SovereignSun Yeah, well there are so many other things one could say about that sentence. But, inverting the word order (that was) would make it sound more formal without a shadow of a doubt, but it's a venial error. – Mari-Lou A Feb 21 '18 at 8:27
  • @SovereignSun thanks for the tip though. – Mari-Lou A Feb 21 '18 at 8:30

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