Gerunds and me by Angela Caldin

Night time conundrums

I woke up in the night a while ago thinking about grammar. More precisely, I was thinking about gerunds and I haven’t thought about them for some considerable time. In English grammar, a gerund is a word based on a verb that acts as a noun and it always ends in ing. For example, if you say ‘Walking is one of my favourite things to do,’ walking is a gerund.

So far, so good; but when it comes to indicating possession with a gerund, things get more complicated.  I was pondering on which was correct:

  • There’s no point in our worrying because we are not there
  • There’s no point in us worrying because we are not there

Here’s another example:

  • I didn’t appreciate him returning the car in a dirty state
  • I didn’t appreciate his returning the car in a dirty state

And another:

  • Did your parents approve of your going to the rave?
  • Did your parents approve of you going to the rave?

And another:

  • I can’t stand him singing in the shower
  • I can’t stand his singing in the shower

This example is helpful because we have to decide what is 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 is so infuriating? It’s probably the latter; it’s the singing that belongs to him that annoys you. So we would say, ‘I can’t stand his singing in the shower.’

  • I’m worried about him running in the park after dark
  • I’m worried about his running in the park after dark

The first sentence means that I’m worried about him and the fact that he runs in the park after dark, but the second puts the emphasis on the running that he is doing.

So going back to the example that I was pondering at the start, I need to decide on whether the emphasis is on the worrying that we might be doing or on the fact that other people might worry, but not us.

2 Comments on “Gerunds and me by Angela Caldin

  1. Hi Angela

    A pleasure to read about gerunds, which I learned about in the dim distant past, but depressing to read in the Herald that kids are not even being taught to write, let alone learn about gerunds! And the methods used to teach them to read end up with more than half of the kids never being able to.

    Lovely to see you the other day

    Susan x

    • I used to enjoy grammar lessons at school and something called parsing. I still remember many of the things we learnt and I think they really help me with my writing. Teaching methods are different today and I’ve no idea whether they are more or less effective

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