I Enjoy You/Your Singing–Pronouns With Gerunds

This past weekend my blog was down, and I only found out because a loyal reader named Lori let me know. Lori and I exchanged several messages about the blog and the cause of the problem. My final message to Lori included this sentence:

I appreciate you letting me know about the blog being down. 

I thought it would be my final message to Lori. But as someone interested in writing correctly, she wrote back immediately to ask about my use of you (rather than your) before the gerund letting. I happily promised to discuss it here. 

First, a definition: A gerund is an -ing verb used as a noun. Some people call gerunds "verbal nouns."

These sentences start with gerunds:

  • Smoking is hazardous to your health.
  • Whining is an unattractive habit.
  • Listening gets you more information than talking. (Talking is another gerund in this sentence.)

The grammatical question Lori was asking is whether the object pronoun (you) is correct before the gerund letting, as in "you letting me know."

The normal rule is to use a possessive form before a gerund:

  • Dad's smoking upsets Margie. (Not "Dad smoking upsets Margie.")
  • Your whining is driving me crazy. (Not "You whining is driving me crazy.")
  • My supervisor's listening makes me feel valued. (Not "My supervisor listening makes me feel valued.")

To understand the choices above, you can look at what they do not mean:

  • Dad upsets Margie–not true. His smoking upsets her.
  • You are driving me crazy–not true. Your whining is.
  • My supervisor makes me feel valued–not exactly true. His or her listening does.

Back to the sentence I wrote to Lori:

I appreciate you letting me know about the blog being down.

I intended to convey that I appreciated Lori after getting to know her through our exchange of messages. That is why I chose "I appreciate you letting me know" rather than "I appreciate your letting me know." Both choices are correct, although I admit that sirens may go off in a grammarian's mind when reading "you letting."

I consulted Garner's Modern American Usage before writing this post. I share one of Mr. Garner's excellent comparisons:

  • Is John in the shower? Yes, I heard him singing.
  • Is he talented? Yes, I heard his singing.

The first item makes sense with him: I heard him. That is how I know he is in the shower.

The second item requires his: I heard John's [his] singing. That is how I know he is talented.

Lori did not ask about the second gerund in my sentence: "the blog being down." Why didn't I write "the blog's being down"?

Garner describes "nonpersonal nouns" as ones in which "there's typically no choice of construction." We normally do not use a possessive form with them. He provides this example:

He was responsible for the luggage having been lost. [Not "the luggage's having been lost."]

Garner's example makes sense to me not only because luggage is a nonpersonal noun, but also because we can say "He was responsible for the luggage." And I can say "Lori let me know about the blog."

Sometimes it makes sense to restructure a sentence when it sounds awkward. For example:

  • Raoul's signing the document is required. (slightly awkward)
  • Raoul's signature is required. (clear and concise)

Test yourself on these examples:

  1. His/Him leaving early will not be a problem.
  2. Nadia is upset about you/your forgetting the meeting. 
  3. Jeff/Jeff's driving has worried his partners.
  4. I am pleased about Grace/Grace's taking over the division.
  5. Doreen is concerned about her daughter/daughter's having forgotten her keys.

 

Here are my solutions, along with brief explanations:

1. "His leaving"–the focus is on the leaving, not on him. Besides, him sounds bad at the beginning of the sentence.

2. "Your forgetting" seems more likely. However, if Nadia is upset that you of all people would forget the meeting, "you forgetting" is correct.

3. "Jeff's driving"–Jeff's driving has them worried, not Jeff himself.

4. I believe either choice could be correct, depending on one's emphasis. Both "I am pleased about Grace" and "I am pleased about Grace's taking over" are possible.

5. "Daughter's having" is correct, but the sentence is cumbersome. A better version is "Doreen is concerned that her daughter forgot her keys."

The title of this post is "I Enjoy You/Your Singing–Pronouns With Gerunds." Is you or your correct in that example?

I believe "your singing" is more likely to convey the meaning. But situations do exist in which "you singing" would be correct.

Do you agree with my rather liberal view of pronouns before gerunds? I welcome your commenting comments.

Thanks to Lori for inspiring this post.

Lynn
Syntax Training 

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Although it might be easier if grammatical choices were either black or white, there are often shades of gray. To convey the intended meaning is the key. Thank you for helping us to keep that in mind.

  2. Would “I appreciate you for letting me know about the blog being down” work (please note that “for” has been added)?

    Thanks,

    Carlos Albert

  3. First of all, I want to thank you for all the useful insights you have provided on this lesson [using pronoun correctly with gerunds] and for the grammar book reference.It helps a lot. Next, is this sentence correct ”I really appreciated you picking me up after school today,”

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