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I remember your talking about how your father died.

I remember you talking about how your father died.

Are both these sentences grammatically correct? What's the difference in their meaning?

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Both sentences are correct.

In the first example, "I remember your talking about how your father died." "talking" is a gerund or verbal noun. (The talking about the subject becomes the import portion of the sentence.)

In the second example "I remember you talking about how your father died." "talking" is a present participle. (What is remembered is the important part of the sentence.)

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    I'm not sure that there is a focusing effect in the different constructions. 'Your talking' does not focus the talking and 'you talking' does not focus the remembering. – Igid Dec 19 '17 at 1:01
  • I agree about the focus being on talking in the first case, but in the second case, I think the focus is on you rather than what is remembered. Compare this to "I remember your playing the piano" vs. "I remember you playing the piano". – laugh salutes Monica C Dec 20 '17 at 5:27
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The word, 'your' is used for possessions. You can see the actual definition here;

"belonging to or associated with the person or people that the speaker is addressing"

  • Both work either way, but for natural speaking and to keep the sentence flowing, you should stick with 'you' for socializing, as pronouns are for referring to most general things.
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  • what about sentences like this one? Your sending me that letter reminded me of how I used to send you letters, back in the day. – Soumya Ghosh Dec 12 '17 at 10:43
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    The first 'your' was correct, but it's something that you would use in a higher class in old English. I would stick with saying 'you' for colloquial uses, and just use the word 'your' for possessions. Always stick to pronouns. – Tyler Dec 12 '17 at 10:59
  • I would say that that use would be appropriate in modern English in certain formal business or legal settings, though usually only in written letters. "I am sending you this letter in response to your lodging of an application for a home loan" sort of thing. – nick012000 Dec 17 '17 at 16:29
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    @nick012000 I disagree completely with that. "Your saying that upsets me". [I am not really upset but wanted to show you how common it is.] :) – Lambie Dec 19 '17 at 1:28
  • I don't know about that "should stick with." I still use possessives with my gerunds all the time. Maybe sometimes people look at me funny behind my back, but I know I'm right, so I don't care. ;) – joiedevivre Dec 19 '17 at 1:32
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1 - I remember|your talking| about how your father died.

Your talking is a pronoun + a noun gerund and the phrase functions like a quasi-direct object. You can extract the noun and use it elsewhere and it becomes a subject.

|Your talking| about how your father died| reminded me of sad times.

In English, nouns gerunds are used all the time. |My playing| [of a musical instrument] was annoying to my family. They do not remember |my playing| fondly.

2) I remember |you talking| about how your father died. |You talking| about that subject upset me.

This is just more colloquial. And traditionally talking would be considered a participle though I would say it is a direct object. However, you can also use it as a noun. [You or Your or no pronoun]Talking too much can be a problem.

The sentences are semantically equivalent. There is no difference in meaning. They both convey the same information and the noun gerund or participle (depending on how you look at it) can be used as a subject.

Verbs that take ING in this group are forget, remember, stop and try because they can be followed by ING or TO, but do change meaning.

Please also bear in mind that pronoun + gerund can be used with all the possessive pronouns (formal) and object pronouns (colloquially): your talking, his leaving, her grieving, my arriving, their disagreeing, our shouting are all further examples of a pronoun+gerund and can all be used as subjects. Also please note that the her can only be her. The other pronouns remain the same.

I remember your/you talking about x.

I remember his/him talking about x.

I remember her talking about x.[no pronoun change: possessive is the same as the object pronoun]

I remember their/them talking about x.

I remember our/us talking about x.

I remember my,me talking about x.

To show that the use of you is more colloquial, look at the first person pronoun in the sentence: there is no doubt that I remember me talking about x is more colloquial than I remember my talking about x. And sorry but the only reference I have is in my head. Me talking about that is important is used and heard but if you were getting your Phd in English, you would want to say: My talking about that is important.

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  • Very comprehensive but I find your answer a bit confusing towards the end. What do you mean there is no pronoun change with 'their/them'? And that only 'you' can be 'your'? – Igid Dec 19 '17 at 0:59
  • OK, I fixed it. :) – Lambie Dec 19 '17 at 1:10
  • +1 Although I think it's worth noting that gerunds can take any possessive (and would in very formal English), not just pronouns. Sara's singing made me happy. – joiedevivre Dec 19 '17 at 1:37
  • @joiedevivre One cannot cover everything, can one? I was dealing with the matter at hand. Sara's singing is her singing. So....and Sara's singing is not problematical grammatically like the pronouns. – Lambie Dec 19 '17 at 16:36
  • @Lambie Sorry if that sounded like a criticism. I meant I thought it was worth mentioning in a comment. I do believe it's also problematical grammatically, though. Many people would think I remember Sara's talking about x sounds strange, but it's no different than using a possessive pronoun. – joiedevivre Dec 19 '17 at 16:51
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Your is more precise and should be used in formal writing. It is more precise because it is the talking that is being remembered, not you.

You is more colloquial and might be more appropriate for everyday dialogue. Still, I would prefer to say your instead of you. There's nothing wrong with being precise in colloquial English. Say what you mean, not what makes you "fit in."

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Briefly speaking... ("you" - objective, "your" - possessive)

  1. Both are accepted with either the objective or the possessive.
  2. The possessive is considered more formal whereas the objective is considered informal.
  3. When the gerund is the subject, the possessive is often preferred - "Your talking much about your father's death bothers me."
  4. The possessive focuses on the action whereas the objective focuses on the person.
  5. If you are doing an English test it's wiser to avoid using the objective and use the possessive instead = I didn't like your (not you) talking to my sister.

Grammatically speaking...

  • The gerund phrase "talking about how your father died" functions as a noun and thus we must use the possessive case of nouns that modify it. (Get It Write)
  • Using the objective instead of the possessive can often lead to ambiguity (see p.4. above)

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