1. It’s hard to imagine me doing that crime

  2. It’s hard to imagine I doing that crime

  3. It’s hard to imagine my doing that crime

Which of the above three sentences is correct? My grammar book said we should use possessive form of noun or pronoun before gerund as in sentence 3. So is it correct? If all are correct, what is the difference in meaning?

  • Where are the punctuations? Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 12:00
  • 1
    to commit a crime, not do one. Punctuation is missing. [no s]
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 17:50
  • The grammar books in the 19th century all said to use my. But me is more common now. See Google Ngrams. I don't know whether people actually used me more often in speech back then; it's certainly possible. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 22:58

3 Answers 3


There is the gerund/participle ambiguity here.

You can have a participle phrase "doing that crime" modifying the pronoun "me" (which should be in object form as it is the object of the verb "imagine").

Or there can be a gerund phrase in which case the object of "imagine" is the gerund "doing", with subject "my" (because gerunds have their subjects in possessive form)

There could be a slight difference in meaning: in the first case the thing that one imagines is "me" (a person), in the second case, the thing that is imagined is the act of "doing".

But at a higher level, imagining a person who is doing a crime, has the same general sense of imagining a crime being done by a person. The picture in your mind is the same.

So there is the gerund/participle ambiguity. It can be functionally impossible to decide whether "doing" is a participle or gerund. Even the clue that "me" or "my" gives isn't certain, since the meanings are the same, at some high level.

It is more common and more straightforward to use the participle form "me doing the crime". This is much more common.

However "I doing the crime" is grammatically incorrect, no matter how you parse the sentence.

  • This should be the accepted answer! Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 23:27

I would not use any of the three. It seems to be something the speaker is saying about themselves, so I would expect something reflexive, like
"It's hard for me to imagine myself doing that crime."

If the speaker is talking about someone else's imagination about him, it might be put
"It's hard for them to imagine me doing that crime."
In that sentence, "my doing" could be used, but I think it doesn't sound as good.


First of all number 2 is wrong..

On number 3 and 1 it's like;

3: "It's hard to imagine my doing that crime!" -"doing" here is gerund so "my" is correct but it feels a bit empty because the sentence is reflexive.

1: "It's hard to imagine me doing that crime!" -This is also correct but used in formal writings mostly.

Myself is a reflexive pronoun so if we use myself here;

"It's hard to imagine myself doing that crime!" -So now it has a disgust like strong emphasis and it is hard to grasp by someone like you. Also while talking it is more fluent, common and reflexive. I would totaly suggest using this myself above all else.

the other possible ways of saying it with different meanings;

"It's hard to imagine, that crime is my doing!" -Also true in construct but has a feeling of self acceptance that the crime is done by you and/or you are making a mockery of that crime!

  • 1
    I think this is a decent answer, but I disagree that "me doing" is formal or uncommon. Your last suggestion does not seem idiomatic to me. I agree it is grammatical, but ... I'd give this an upvote except for that last suggestion. Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 22:03

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