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Which of the following sentences is correct?

"These kind of branding strategies are adopted by those firms and organisations whose sales are decreasing day by day.

Or

"These kind of branding strategies are adopted by those firms and organisations which sales are decreasing day by day.

I just want to know which one should I use: which or whose. As far as I know, whose is used for living things and which for non-living things. But using "which" doesn't sound correct in this sentence.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – snailcar Apr 30 '18 at 3:57
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The correct word to use here is whose.

"As far as I know whose is used for living things and which for non-living things" - that's not correct. We use whose for both living and non-living things (although some people think it sounds bad to use it with non-living things) and whose and which have different grammatical functions.

Roughly speaking,

  • which means "the ones that"
  • whose means "possessing the ones that"

Consider this as an example: some leaves have fallen off some trees. We would say

The leaves which have been lost

or

The trees whose leaves have been lost

One is about the things themselves, the other is about the things that own the other things. So in your original sentence, it is not the companies that are decreasing day by day; the companies own the sales that are decreasing.

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Who told you that whose is only used for living things? I'd like to know the name of that person who is responsible for speeding this misconception about the English language because I hear people refer to it as fact all the time on this forum. The statement that whose can only be used for people and animals is just not true. You can definitely use it for nonliving objects. Period!

The relative pronoun whose is used to indicate that something belongs to or is owned by someone or something else. So, the "thing" something belongs to can be a living thing as well as a nonliving one. Whose has a very strong notion of possession which which, also a relative pronoun, does not have. That's why your second sentence sounds wrong. Take a look at these examples:

Do you remember the company whose managers were all from the UK? Well, it went bankrupt last year. (this sentence sounds absolutely normal)

Do you remember the company which had managers who were all from the UK? Well, it went bankrupt last year. (which mangers were would be grammatically incorrect English)

  • MWDEU nicely puts it while commenting on the results of a survey (1974) in which the majority of participants marked whose wrong: The specter of the 18th-century grammarian is still loose in the land. – userr2684291 Apr 28 '18 at 18:32
  • Teachers used to teach that whose was for people and animate things. That is a fact. But I cannot prove and I don't agree with it. – Lambie Apr 28 '18 at 19:30
  • @MichaelRybkin, thank you for spreading the truth! Although, I'd argue that you should have used the company **that** had managers instead of the company **which** had managers. – ccjmne Apr 29 '18 at 13:06
  • @ccjmne Aghh, you're probably right. It was very difficult to come up with a good example where you could easily substitute whose with witch and clearly see that the sentence grammatically breaks apart. Sorry about that. – Michael Rybkin Apr 29 '18 at 13:27
  • @ccjmne Why? Which is perfectly grammatical in that sentence. – userr2684291 Apr 29 '18 at 16:37
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These kind of branding strategies are adopted by those firms and organisations whose sales are decreasing day by day. ✓


whose: used to say which person or thing you mean
e.g. It's the house whose door is painted red.

Source: Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

  • “used to say which person or thing you mean” is worse than useless; all relative pronouns are used that way, and not only that way. – Anton Sherwood Apr 28 '18 at 23:59
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    @AntonSherwood: "all relative pronouns are used that way" They are different: "who" and "whom" refer to people, "which" refers to things, "when" and "where" refer to time and place, "why" refers to the reason, and "that" is used instead of "who/whom/which". – Mori Apr 29 '18 at 6:02
  • A distinction which has nothing to do with the point I raised. Yes, different pronouns are used for different classes; but all relative pronouns, not only whose, are used to distinguish between members of a same class. – Anton Sherwood Apr 30 '18 at 7:41
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These kinds of branding strategies are adopted by those firms and organisations the sales of which are decreasing day by day.

That's how you would say it with which. You need of to form the "possessive" with which.

This is not to say that whose would be wrong.

  • Now, I would accept whose but your explanation is exactly what my comment above said, which was questioned by one user as if I were saying something out of this world.....That said, your answer has the merit of showing exactly how this works. Personally, I'd get rid of it altogether: those organizations with sales that are decreasing day by day. Same meaning without whose or of which. – Lambie Apr 28 '18 at 19:18
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The correct form is whose:

Branding strategies of this kind are adopted by those firms and organisations whose sales are decreasing day by day.

The word whose can be used with inanimate objects.

  • 1
    A correct form is whose ;-) We can also say "the sales of which". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 28 '18 at 19:07
  • A user under my comment above is questioning that whose is the sales of which. Could you (Tᴚoɯɐuo) put him or her straight on that? Thank you. – Lambie Apr 28 '18 at 19:16

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