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    #1

    Question us/our + gerund

    In another thread, a question was asked about "what if we talking to him are just making it worse?" This got me thinking.


    In He doesn't like us/our talking to him, some people insist that only 'our' is correct, other say that 'us' is perfectly acceptable. Grammatically speaking, either 'us', modified by 'taking', is the direct object of '(doesn't) like)', or 'our talking' is. This is not important for most of us - we use the form we are happy with.

    However, we have a different situation with What if us/our talking to him is just making it worse?

    In the blue sentence, there is no problem for those who go for 'our'; '(our) talking' is the subject of the verb 'is making'.

    However, for those who go for 'us' in the green sentence, 'Us' is not the object of anything. In fact, it's the subject of 'talking'. Logically speaking, therefore, it should be: What if we talking to him is just making it worse?

    That red sentence just does not seem right to me. What do others think?
    Last edited by Piscean; 11-Jan-2018 at 16:09. Reason: slip corrected

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    #2

    Re: us/our + gerund

    You've gone from 'us' to 'I'. Never mind.
    "What if I, talking to him, am just making it worse?" That's OK, but unusual. (And not the point, of course).

    Can "me/us talking to him" be a subject? I think it's possible, even though 'me' and 'us' are not possible subjects. "Me talking to him" is an active force.
    A: What convinced him?
    B: Me talking to him.

    "What annoyed her was him talking to her." The subject is in bold. Yes, 'his', the genitive, is possible.

    For me, the issue comes down to whether the fact that 'me' cannot be a subject also means that "me talking to him" cannot be.

    PS: I agree that the red sentence is impossible.

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    #3

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    You've gone from 'us' to 'I'. Never mind.
    I have changed it. Thanks.

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    #4

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    For me, the issue comes down to whether the fact that 'me' cannot be a subject also means that "me talking to him" cannot be.
    I agree. I am fairly sure that I have heard/seen 'me/us talking to him' as a subject. I have probably said similar things myself. I am wondering if they are acceptable. If they are, how do we justify them?

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    #5

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    In He doesn't like us/our talking to him, some people insist that only 'our' is correct, other say that 'us' is perfectly acceptable.
    But it's true that our is the 'correct' form, regardless of whether us is acceptable or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    I am fairly sure that I have heard/seen 'me/us talking to him' as a subject. I have probably said similar things myself. I am wondering if they are acceptable. If they are, how do we justify them?
    We would justify them like we always do -- by saying that often the most natural or most frequent way of saying something is not necessarily the most grammatically 'correct'.

    And by what criteria do we deem something to be acceptable? That's a different (but important) question. At least, it is for teachers.

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    #6

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    We would justify them like we always do -- by saying that often the most natural or most frequent way of saying something is not necessarily the most grammatically 'correct'.
    Indeed What I am trying to do, purely for my own interest, is to see whether there is a grammatically 'correct' form

    And by what criteria do we deem something to be acceptable? That's a different (but important) question. At least, it is for teachers.
    I agree. I don't think there is a satisfactory solution to the problem I have raised. That's why I started this thread in the Linguistics forum. This is an academic argument, of little value to learners. It may be of interest, but probably not of value, to most teachers. Our learners encounter sentences such as the red, blue, and green ones in the first post that, in the classroom, I would probably follow your suggestion in post '4.

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    #7

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    What I am trying to do ... is to see whether there is a grammatically 'correct' form
    Are you saying that our talking to him is not a grammatically correct form?

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    #8

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    Logically speaking, therefore, it should be: What if we talking to him is just making it worse?
    If I follow you correctly, logically speaking, shouldn't it be: "What if we talking to him are just making it worse?"?

    I agree that neither red sentence sounds good. I don't see a problem with using my talking to him.

    Of course, you could simply get around the issue with:

    What if talking to him is just making it worse?

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    #9

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    If I follow you correctly, logically speaking, shouldn't it be: "What if we talking to him are just making it worse?"?
    No, not as I understand it, because 'we' is not the subject. The logical subject seems to be "we talking to him", that is, not "we, by talking to him" but "our talking to him".

    I agree that neither red sentence sounds good. I don't see a problem with using my talking to him.

    Of course, you could simply get around the issue with:

    What if talking to him is just making it worse?
    One could avoid the issue. But I think Piscean's idea is to tackle it.

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    #10

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    Grammatically speaking, either 'us', modified by 'talking', is the direct object of '(doesn't) like)', or 'our talking' is.
    Perhaps I'm being stupid but I really don't understand the basis for the claim in bold. It's not us that he doesn't like. It's the talking.

    However, we have a different situation with What if us/our talking to him is just making it worse?

    In the blue sentence, there is no problem for those who go for 'our'; '(our) talking' is the subject of the verb 'is making'.

    However, for those who go for 'us' in the green sentence, 'Us' is not the object of anything. In fact, it's the subject of 'talking'. Logically speaking, therefore, it should be: What if we talking to him is just making it worse?
    Yes, quite. Looking at it like that you would need to say we, not us.

    That red sentence just does not seem right to me. What do others think?
    I agree but I think it's still more logical than using us.

    As I've suggested, the way I see it, it's the talking that is making things worse, not really us, so it should be our talking to him that is the intended subject of the verb. Here the question comes down to whether we're talking about the grammatical subject or the semantic subject.

    Another way I can look at it is like this:

    What if we [by (talking to him)] are just making it worse?

    But here the (semantic) subject is we again, not the talking.


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