Can I construct sentences like a) and b) below, instead of c)? I understand the construction in c) is the most common and acceptable one.

  • a) Try to deliver the gifts without you are seen.
  • b) Try to deliver the gifts without your being seen.
  • c) Try to deliver the gifts without being seen.

1 Answer 1


a) is not grammatical in most varieties of English : without introduces a noun phrase or an ing clause, not a finite clause. (There are some dialects which allow it, I think, but no standard varieties).

b) is grammatical, but unusual: we usually don't express the subject of a subordinate clause when it's the same as the (actual or implied) subject of the matrix sentence.

Note also that, while the possessive your being is what the traditional grammar books say, many people now don't use it, and would say We'll go in the back way so we can get in without you being seen. (I've used a different sentence in which the you(r) is more natural). Your being is certainly not wrong, but some people would regard it as very formal.

  • Much appreciated. Why is exactly the 'a' not grammatical? How would you like to construct the sentence if you required to keep the clause 'you are seen' in the 'a'?
    – Airforce
    Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 0:49
  • @Airforce: I have answered that. Without in most varieties of English cannot take a finite clause. If you want to retain you re seen you'll have to use a long paraphrase like in a way that avoids the possibility that you are seen (because possibility can take a "that" clause). A shorter alternative would be in a way that you are not seen, which does not preserve the sequence you are seen, but still has a finite clase.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 11:26
  • Thanks a lot. It's now understood. The 'without' is similar to how we use the 'despite', for example, in a sentence.
    – Airforce
    Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 11:36
  • Exactly. Without and despite are prepositions, unlike (for example) unless, which is a subordinating conjunction.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 13:29
  • 1
    @StatsCruncher: see my second and third paragraphs. It's grammatical (except for the sticklers who insist it should be without your being seen); but it's unlikely to be said, because "you" is implied
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 11:46

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