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I was told that the following does not work:

Employees having children will be granted a day off.

However, this sounds better:

Having children, those employees will be granted a day off.

What is wrong with the first clause?

  • There is nothing wrong with the first sentence—and it sounds better than the second, which means something different. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Feb 12 at 22:26
  • @JasonBassford I thought "have" should not be used in the progressive form when it relates to possession? I guess "My employees who are having cars" would not be correct. – John V Feb 13 at 9:56
  • Employees who are having cars sounds technically correct, but idiomatically awkward. So, while not actually wrong, something that would identify someone as a non-native speaker. This is not because of the verb form in general, but with the specific verb. We would normally say Employees who have cars [something] or employees having cars [something]. However, it would be fine to say I am eating chicken for dinner. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Feb 13 at 14:48
  • @JasonBassford Exactly, grammar books state "have" is never used in the progressive form when we talk about possession. So is this first sentence in my question also correct but idiomatically awkward? – John V Feb 13 at 14:49
  • The first sentence sounds perfectly normal to me—although it's probably a little less common than employees who have children. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Feb 13 at 14:51
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There is nothing technically wrong with either sentence, as far as I can see.

Subjectively, I prefer the first one, as it is more simple and closer to normal conversational English.

The second example, in my opinion, is a needlessly complex way of avoiding the first version. It would be much better to avoid the problem entirely and say:

Employees with children will be granted a day off.

However! There is a school of thought that discourages the use of present participle with the verb to have when talking about possession.

"I have a car", not "I am having a car". "He has a daughter" not "He is having a daughter".

In standard British or American English this is true. The sentence is completely comprehensible, but would be considered odd in normal conversation. In English spoken by people from the Indian subcontinent, however, I believe it is a common and acceptable regional variant.

But in your sentence, that is not how 'having' is being used. I think (and some better grammarian than me can correct me if I am wrong) that we're dealing with a gerund clause in the first sentence, not a present participle. 'Employees having children' is a gerund clause which acts like a single noun, and is therefore perfectly acceptable in standard English.

Think of it this way:

[Employees having children](subject, noun) will be granted (future passive verb) a day off (noun, object).

When viewed in that way, the first version is a very simple subject > verb > object sentence.

So if your English teacher told you the first sentence is wrong, you should tell them to Google 'gerunds'. ;-)

Edit:

More information on the use of "the progressive aspect with habitual actions, completed actions, and stative verbs" in the English of the Indian subcontinent can be found here. In this context it would be perfectly normal to say something like "He was having a car".

  • How the first can be correct if there is "having", I thought this form of "have" should not be used when used for possession. – John V Feb 13 at 9:55
  • @JohnV It depends on one's definition of 'correct' I suppose. I would consider it a form of words best avoided if one is aspiring to speak 'standard' British or American English, but is the meaning perfectly clear? Yes it is. It is also a characteristic of Indian English (answer updated to provide source), where it should be considered 'standard' in that context and not wrong. – fred2 Feb 13 at 16:46
  • Thank you. Now I am thinking about your sentence and usage of "words best avoided" .. I guess I cannot use "the best" avoided as I am not comparing certain variants? – John V Feb 13 at 17:01
  • I just had to Google it, but 'best' when used in the way I used it is apparently being used as an auxiliary verb. It has the meaning something like 'a form of words it is advisable to avoid'. It changes the mood of 'avoided' from an active to (I think) a subjunctive form. Or, just consider it an idiomatic phrase used when giving advice. en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/best – fred2 Feb 13 at 17:23
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    I would say it could be actually the adverb in this case - "Most appropriately or usefully.", a very similar example is even there in that dictionary link - "‘jokes are best avoided in essays’" – John V Feb 13 at 17:25

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