The rule says that we can use a possessive adjective or an object pronoun before a gerund. Is there a rule that says when to use each or are they interchangeable? Some say that it's wrong to use an object pronoun before a gerund.

  • 5
    "Do you mind my asking a question?" versus "Do you mind me asking a question?" I think we might have a question about that already . . .
    – user230
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 8:23
  • ell.stackexchange.com/a/13312/230
    – user230
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 8:25
  • What if I say: "Would you mind helping me, please?" Is it correct? Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 10:24
  • 4
    @LucianSava In your example the subject of help in the subordinate clause is the same as the subject of mind in the main clause, so the subject of the subordinate clause is 'deleted'. See Equivalent Noun Phrase Deletion in this class handout by English Language & Usage's John Lawler. Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 23:59

1 Answer 1


The basic "rule" is that formal written English prefers the possessive in all circumstances, while informal, conversational speech prefers the objective. Generally, the more formal the register, the more likely it is that the possessive will be used. However

  • Formal English is becoming less rigid. It now tolerates the objective in many circumstances—for instance, a transitive gerund clause which acts as the complement of a matrix verb, as in snailplane's example:

    Do you mind me asking a question?

  • Likewise, the possessive is hardly rare in informal English; it is particularly frequent when the gerund clause is the first constituent in a matrix clause:

    My kids KNEW their dad as they had lived with him and me until the separation... but, his leaving like that was tough on them. —from CafeMom, a meeting place for moms.

    What seems to govern colloquial use is the syntax; a gerund which plays a particularly ‘un-verbish’ and ‘noun-y’ role is more likely to take the possessive.

    So although some dogmatic ‘descriptivists’ claim that the possessive sounds ‘stilted’, in my experience this isn’t true; colloquial English tolerates a wide variety of usages.

Under the circumstances, I would advise you to stick to the possessive, particularly if you are in school or are in a field which demands a lot of formal writing. It’s easier to make a habit of using just one form instead of trying to juggle two; and the possessive will never get you into trouble.

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