Here are two sentences:

My having been to South-Korea helped me learn the languages when I took the classes.

Being accepted to Harvard university was the greatest day of my life.

Is it common or natural way to write such 'having+past participle' and being+past participle construction in formal writing? Or should I use the other alternatives for these? Are these construction encouraged in writing? And What about in spoken English? Thanks.

source http://www.myenglishteacher.net/gerunds.html

  • Proofreading isn't encouraged here. You might want to change your question. That thing that you're looking for is called gerund replacing a noun acting like one and it's different from present participle phrases which replace a clause and acting like one.
    – Yuri
    Oct 9, 2016 at 8:09
  • @Yuri yeah! That's exactly what i'm looking for. I don't know how it looks like proof-reading.
    – yubraj
    Oct 9, 2016 at 8:53
  • This gives you a basic understanding of the difference and this one takes you one step more.
    – Yuri
    Oct 9, 2016 at 9:35
  • @Yuri Thanks for links, found helpfull. . .but it's not enough for this question!
    – yubraj
    Oct 9, 2016 at 23:32
  • 1
    There are literally hundreds of ways to write these sentences without the gerunds and without changing their meaning. For examples, see my comment above. The gerund is very important and useful in English, and the sentences are not very complicated. If you study and understand the examples in the lesson you linked to, you will be able to eliminate the gerunds yourself! Oct 10, 2016 at 2:16

1 Answer 1


The two examples which the OP cited are formal, the first being very formal; and both are in the passive voice.

If I were to recast the two examples into the active voice, I would suggest the following:

  1. My having been to South-Korea helped me learn the languages when I took the classes.

    • The time I spent in South-Korea helped me learn the languages …
  2. Being accepted to Harvard university was the greatest day of my life.

    • The time Harvard University accepted my application, was the greatest day of my life

Note that Harvard University is capitalised, because it is the full and complete name of the institution.

  • Is the use of gerund + past participle common in formal writing?

It is still used in formal writing but it is, without a shadow of a doubt, becoming less common in speech. If it's used sparingly in an essay, an English teacher might be favourably impressed but if the student resorts to using this type of construction whenever possible, it will sound at best antiquated and, at worst, pompous.

Some people maintain that the passive voice should be used whenever it is required, while others claim an overuse of the passive voice actually presents poor style.

Supporters of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (1918) will say: “Use definite, specific, concrete language”, The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:, and The habitual use of the active voice, however, makes for forcible writing. This is true not only in narrative principally concerned with action, but in writing of any kind.

In the end, choose the construction which you feel most confident with.

P.S Not all the examples of “tame sentences” cited by S&W are actually in the passive voice, and none begin with the gerund + past participle, just thought I'd warn you.

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