This is a paragraph from the book 'Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World' by Jason Hickel. I am not quite sure whether its having fallen is grammatically correct. If I were to use such structure I'd use it as an object pronoun: ''..because of it having fallen most...'' Could you shed some light on this confusion of mine over the issue? Thanks in advance ^^

Coronavirus is being taken pretty seriously precisely because of its having fallen most heavily first upon the global North. The wake-up call it embodies needs so badly to be heard, because the slower climate emergency is simultaneous with it – and it poses a disproportionate threat to the global South, where it is already inflicting mass suffering. So we are in a common crisis with differentiated effects. And we must be aware that some governments will respond with worsening environmental racism and hidden agendas of eco-fascism.

  • his breaking the window/him breaking the window. Either subject or object pronouns can be used with a gerund.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 15:25

2 Answers 2


Here is the traditional position:

A noun phrase is required after the preposition of. Thus, having fallen should be considered a gerund rather than a participial phrase. Thus, it should be introduced with a possessive adjective—its—rather than a noun phrase, it. And therefore, the sentence as you found it is correct.

That said, in speech and all but the most formal writing, we are accustomed to subjects and objects that contain a [nominal form] + [participial phrase]. Example:

I don't like John messing around with other women.

Everyone speaks this way.

Strunk and White (for example) forbid such a thing, insisting instead on

I don't like John's messing around with other women.

But this is pretty stuffy. Very few editors today would insist on this form.

The problem with your sentence is that nasty preposition, of. To my ears, anyway, it really needs to be followed by something that sounds more noun-like. [possessive] + [gerund] does that.

Burchfield (i.e., Fowler) offers this advice:

The possessive with gerund is on the retreat, but its use with proper names and personal nouns and pronouns persists in good writing.

He includes its with personal pronouns.

  • 'its use with proper names and personal nouns and pronouns persists in good writing.' +1 Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 15:14

We can use the possessive before a gerund.

Marjorie’s showing up late for meetings was nothing new

This, in Keller's view, amounts to "a clear presumptive case against patriotism's being a virtue and for its being a vice".

Possessive pronoun before gerund

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