Possessive with Gerund
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Understanding when to use possessives with gerunds
When combining the possessive with a gerund, do we say
- “I can't stand him singing in the shower,”
or do we say
- “I can't stand his singing in the shower”?
Well, you have to decide what you find objectionable: is it him, the fact that he is singing in the shower, or is it the singing that is being done by him that you can't stand?
Chances are, it's the latter, it's the singing that belongs to him that bugs you.
So we would say,
- “I can't stand his singing in the shower.”
On the other hand, do we say
- “I noticed your standing in the alley last night”?
Probably not, because it's not the action that we noticed; it's the person.
So we'd say and write, instead,
- “I noticed you standing in the alley last night.”
Usually, however, when a nounOpens in new window or pronounOpens in new window precedes a gerundOpens in new window, that noun or pronoun takes a possessive form. This is especially true of formal, academic writing.
There are exceptions to this. (What would the study of language be without exceptions?)
When the noun preceding the gerund is modified by other words, use the common form of that noun, not the possessive:
- Federico was pleased by Carlos's making the Dean's List for the first time. This would be greatly improved by saying, instead ...
- Federico was pleased by Carlos, his oldest son, making the Dean's List for the first time.
When the noun preceding the gerund is plural, collective, or abstract, use the common form of that noun, not the possessive:
- Professor Villa was amazed by her students working as hard as they did.
- The class working collaboratively was somebody else's idea.
- It was a case of old age getting the better of them.
There are certain situations in which the possessive and the gerund create an awkward combination. This seems to be particularly true when indefinite pronouns are involved:
- I was shocked by somebody's making that remark. This would be greatly improved by saying, instead ...
- I was shocked that somebody would make that remark.
This is also true when the “owner” of the gerund comes wrapped in a noun phrase:
- I was thankful for the guy next door shoveling snow from my driveway
Using Gerunds in Passive sentences
- Being harassed by a husband and in-laws is a matter of sorrow.
- Being debarred is a matter of shame.
- Being molested is a matter of pity.
- Being lynched is a matter of shame.
- Being prompted for the top most post is a matter of pride.
- Being selected as Beauty Queen is a matter of joy.
- Being deceived by a fast friend is a matter of regret.
- Being betrayed by lover is a matter of regret.
- Being chosen by a man of fortune is a matter of luck for a young girl.
- Being illtreated by step mother is a matter of regret.
- Being poisoned is a matter of regret.