Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last
Results 1 to 10 of 16

Thread: us/our + gerund

  1. VIP Member
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Europe
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 15,014
    #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

  2. Raymott's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Academic
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 25,425
    #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.

  3. VIP Member
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Europe
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 15,014
    #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.

  4. jutfrank's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 8,020
    #4

    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?

  5. Raymott's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Academic
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 25,425
    #5

    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.

  6. VIP Member
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Europe
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 15,014
    #6

    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?

  7. jutfrank's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 8,020
    #7

    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.

  8. jutfrank's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 8,020
    #8

    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.


  9. VIP Member
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Europe
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 15,014
    #9

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    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.
    That was/is one of the arguments used by those defending the acceptability of the 'us' form. The idea is that He doesn't like us talking to him is an example of what Fowler(SPE TRacts 1925-7 called a 'fused participle'. 'Talking is' a participle, not a gerund, and the sentence means 'He doesn't like us when we our talking to him'.[/QUOTE]

  10. jutfrank's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 8,020
    #10

    Re: us/our + gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    The idea is that He doesn't like us talking to him is an example of what Fowler called a 'fused participle'. 'Talking is' a participle, not a gerund, and the sentence means 'He doesn't like us when we our talking to him'.
    But that's not exactly the same meaning.

    And in that case, shouldn't the other sentence mean:

    What if we [when we are] talking to him are just making it worse.

    ?

Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •