Possessive Gerunds

Indulge us to introduce the concept of 'Possessive Gerunds.' This sounds complicated, but it's nothing to worry about!

In short, a possessive gerund is a case where a noun or pronoun modifies the gerund. For example:

I object to John's coming late.

John = noun

Coming late - gerund phrase

Here "John's coming late" is the object of the preposition "to," and "John's" is a possessive modifier of the gerund "coming."

We use the possessive form before a gerund when the meaning is clearly possessive. For example:

  • I appreciate your helping me.
  • Please excuse my being late.
  • I need to talk to you about your spelling

Why do we use the possessive gerund?

This is the key point - if we don't use a possessive, it changes the meaning. The possessive means that the focus is on the activity, not the person.

If I say: "I object to John coming late", am I objecting to John or to the activity - coming late? Or if I say "I appreciate you coming here", am I appreciating you or the fact of your coming here?

If no possessives are used, it is referring to the person (the noun or pronoun) rather than the activity (the gerund).

So we need to use the possessive to ensure it's the activity that the verb is referring to:

  • I object to John's coming late.
  • I appreciate your helping me.

In reality we often don't use the possessive gerund but to be grammatically correct, we should be!

If you're still not clear about possessive gerunds, here's a useful video that explains them further. 

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