"I saw him playing cards."

When this line is transformed, which of two following is correct and why?

"I saw his playing cards".

"I saw his playing of cards."

  • Compare with noun phrases that have the in them, for example: "I saw him reading the will." versus "I saw his reading of the will". Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 21:12
  • @ToddWilcox why should I compare with noun phrase having 'the'?
    – ashish7249
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 21:15
  • I'm not sure what the best answer to your question is, but when the is present, it's a similar situation and it always would have of added. Also note that playing in your example sentence could either mean what he was doing or what kinds of cards he had. Like, I saw his playing (with cards) or I saw his cards (the kind of cards used for playing games). Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 21:19
  • 1
    The first, while grammatically correct is semantically wrong, it suggests that you are looking at the cards that he is holding ie "I stood behind him and I saw his playing cards". The second could be correct but it's an unusual, possibly anachronistic usage.
    – PerryW
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 22:33
  • To me "I saw his playing of cards" sounds either unnatural or very, very old-fashioned. Far better "I saw his card playing" with card as an adjective conditioning the gerund or maybe "I saw his card-playing" with 'card-playing' as a compound noun.
    – Jaime
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 10:02

1 Answer 1


The first sentence

"I saw him playing cards."

Means he was playing cards with someone(Or solitaire).

The second sentence

"I saw his playing of cards".

Means he saw a 'trick' or 'show' of cards played by him.

  • Not necessarily a trick, it could also simply refer to his standard approach to playing cards. Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 3:42

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