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General Writing and Grammar Help/Grammar question "his" vs "him being late"


Shaniqua wrote at 2010-10-09 17:59:21
Dear Dawn,

"Him" is an objective case pronoun.  "His" is a possessive pronoun.  From your answer, it's still not clear whether the sentence takes "his" or "him" since you said it needs possessive but then used objective.  Maybe you can clarify.  

Ben wrote at 2011-10-24 13:55:07
The first sentence is correct and the second one is actually wrong.

"I was bothered by his being late" is correct. Dawn's explanation is correct but somehow he picked the wrong sentence.

Rupert wrote at 2012-12-24 13:21:06
Your explanation is correct, although that would somewhat invalidate your answer as the possesive adjective is 'his' thereby rendering the first sentence correct and not the second as you incorrectly state.

RML wrote at 2015-06-12 00:27:54
First off, I'm sorry Dawn, but your entire explanation is wrong.

The word 'his' is a possessive adjective in the first sentence. There is no possessive pronoun in either of the two sentences (possessive pronouns = yours, mine, his, hers, ours, theirs). There is also no "pronoun acting as a subject" unless you're talking about the word 'I'.  

The first sentence (with "his") is the most clear because you were bothered by his behavior (being late).

I was bothered by his (noun).

behavior = noun

being late = noun (Well, technically this is a gerund, which is a verb acting as a noun + late (an adjective). Together these make a noun phrase, which functions like a noun here.)

You wouldn't say: "I was bothered by him behavior."

The second sentence isn't exactly wrong, but there is something different going on there. Think about this:

I saw a woman talking on the phone.

The word 'talking' isn't a gerund here. (We can't put two nouns as objects of a verb unless they're connected by something like a conjunction or a preposition.)The word 'talking' is a present participle in the participle phrase 'talking on the phone', which is functioning like an adjective phrase to describe the woman. You could swap out 'talking on the phone', for example, with 'in a blue dress' - an adjective phrase.

We wouldn't say: "I saw a woman's talking on the phone." because we don't mean that we saw her behavior (not really, anyway). We mean something more like "I saw a woman." and "This woman was talking on the phone." So the focus is more on the woman, along with the fact that she was talking on the phone as more of a description of her.

So you can say: "I was bothered by him being late.", but it implies that he bothered you and he was late. However, it was the lateness (a noun) that bothered you. Right?  

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Dawn Goldberg


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