To me she looks American. Strangely enough, that corresponds to Gib Melson's being American himself.

I'm in doubt in regard to the use of the genitive in the last phrase. Were it a pronoun, it would be possible to use both objective and genitive forms: his being American (formal), him being American (colloquial), right? But I'm not sure whether the following is acceptable: "... to Gib Melson being American himself." Which is correct?

  • As with the pronoun case, both possibilities are in current use.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 1, 2019 at 19:12
  • 1
    Is this some kind of strange play on words of Mel Gibson (who is Australian)? Jun 1, 2019 at 20:22
  • @Jason Bassford Yeah ))) But Gib Melson is Australian too. ))) Jun 1, 2019 at 20:32

2 Answers 2


There are three separate issues in your question.

(1) The possessive before a gerund phrase. In everyday English, these are both widely used:

She's annoyed about my being elected class president.

She's annoyed about me being elected class president.

The former is traditionally viewed as more correct, but it's less common nowadays (at least in North America). People might even assume you meant to say the latter.

(2) A proper name before a gerund phrase. This presents no problem whatsoever.

I'm happy about John's being elected class president.

I'm happy about John being elected class president.

(3) A whole phrase before a possessive. This varies widely. When a possessive is attached to a noun phrase of several words, it can be hard to interpret or awkward. I think most people would agree that this is "not standard", even though you certainly do hear it in conversation:

Are you really going to the guy who insulted you's wedding?

My instincts tell me this is best suited for oral use only. Otherwise, it can usually be rephrased:

Are you really going to the wedding of the guy who insulted you?

On the other hand, proper names are usually just two words and thus much easier to understand:

What do you think of Mel Gibson's being Australian?

Nobody would find this awkward because of the proper name. They might not be familiar with the possessive before a gerund, as mentioned above under (1). But a pedant can always defend that choice if needed...


English is funny

My High School English teachers would have cracked a ruler across my knuckles for using the genitive form. Yes, you can possess citizenship, but that sentence is asserting a condition, which cannot be possessed.

However, when speaking with any old person on the street, you'll hear it both ways and no one will care accept the people who know better. They'll squint slightly, but usually won't say anything.

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