his vs him

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Which sentence is most correct???

Who would have guessed that (his or him) teasing my hair would make such a difference?
 

SoothingDave

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Not a teacher.

Either sentence is grammatically correct.

The emphasis would differ, but only slightly.

If you mean to emphasize that the teasing made a difference ( as opposed to some other action with your hair), then use "his."

If you mean to emphasize that the person doing the teasing made a difference, use "him."
 

philo2009

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Although many speakers would no doubt rate both as, to some degree or other, 'acceptable', I would slightly disagree with Dave that both can be called "correct".

The use of an objective-case pronoun here is, at best, for informal use only, since removal of what then ought to be a mere optional participial (teasing my hair) would yield a non-sentence

*Who would have guessed that him would make such a difference?

The only fully "correct" form for the pronoun here is in fact the possessive case, irrespective of our 'focus' on the person vs. the action:

Who would have guessed that his teasing my hair would make such a difference?

, the -ing phrase thereby becoming a gerund and standing as the true - and, of course, obligatory - subject of the subordinate clause.

Moreover, while conceding that the use of objective-case pronouns as a substitute for the possessive in such constructions is extremely widespread in daily speech, I would reject the argument that some genuine semantic distinction in terms of emphasis/focus is thereby achieved.

Who would have guessed that his teasing my hair would make such a difference?

can be distinguished just as well by vocal tone from

Who would have guessed that his teasing my hair would make such a difference?

as by any dubious morphological change!
 
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