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This sentence is from the Wikipedia article about Michael K. Williams from "The Wire".

The scar led to his being offered roles as a thug in music videos.

As I see it, the word being is either a synonym for person, or it is an auxilliary verb to create Passive Voice. But in the case of Passive Voice, personally to me the word him would sound more correct than his: "led to him being offered". Can you explain this structure?

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Nathan Tuggy, M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ, StoneyB grammar Jul 30 '15 at 19:02

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I googled a bit and found out that structures of this kind are described as "possessive (pronoun) + gerund", that is, a pronoun in the possessive case ("his") followed by a verb in the gerund form (being). The whole part "his being offered roles as a thug in music videos" is called a gerund phrase (or clause?).

Wikipedia's article on gerund says that such choice of a case (possessive "his" instead of objective "him") is favoured by prescriptive grammarians:

The scar led to his being offered roles as a thug in music videos.

On the other hand, in informal speech it is more usual to place the "subject pronoun" of the gerund in the objective case (him)

The scar led to him being offered roles as a thug in music videos.

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This sentence is confusing because two different things are happening at once. Let's first look at some simpler examples:

  1. "The scar led to his frightening people." The key point is that, in this sentence, the word frightening describes an activity. Even though to frighten is a verb, the gerund form frightening functions as a noun, which is the object of led to. Because it's a noun, it can be modified by an adjective. The adjective his answers the question "whose activity was this?"

  2. "He was offered roles as a thug in music videos." As you said, to be is an auxiliary verb used to create the passive voice. The result is a passive verb, "to be offered."

In the original sentence, "being offered" is the gerund form of the passive verb "to be offered." Grammatically, it describes an activity, even though it seems strange to call something passive an "activity."

All of that being said, CopperKettle is right: in informal speech, many people would say "him being offered."

  • About your first example: if I can say it for his, than I can say it for my. "The scar led to my frightening people." Is it correct? – Graduate Nov 12 '14 at 17:41
  • @Graduate Yes that is correct. One minor quibble with this example however: "A frightens B" connotes some form of action or intent to cause fear by "A". When a scarred person is frightening, "B is frightened by A" might be better ("The scar led to people['s] being frightened by me"). Even better use an active verb with B as the subject: "The scar led people to tremble in fear at the sight of me." – bcrist Nov 13 '14 at 0:53
  • +1 for 'Because it's a noun, it can be modified by an adjective. The adjective his answers the question "whose activity was this?"' – DCShannon Nov 13 '14 at 5:04
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Please read the following sentence

I was being offered countless jobs when i graduated from the university as a topper.

This sentence could be modified to look like the one in your example. Then that sentence would be

Graduating from the univesity as a topper led to me being offered countless jobs.

So the word 'being' is not a synomym for a person but is the verb 'be' used in the passive voice.

  • To make your second sentence resemble my sentence, you have to substitute me with my. It would sound strange. – Graduate Nov 12 '14 at 17:37
  • well in that case 'my' would be incorrect i guess. So in your example 'The scar led to his being offered roles as a thug in music videos.' - there should be 'him being offered' instead of 'his being offered'. Because 'his being' sounds like a noun. However we might need more opinions to confirm that. – Leo Nov 12 '14 at 17:45
  • I'm plodding through an interesting discussion of the topic by two grammarians (look at the comments section there), and it seems gerunds are indeed viewed as nouns and hence the prescriptivists favor the "his" form. "Him" looks way more natural to me though. – CowperKettle Nov 12 '14 at 17:50
  • To be pedantic, in the second sentence it should be "my being offered countless jobs" -- "being offered countless jobs" is a noun phrase introduced by a gerund; the phrase is the object of the preposition "to". – user295691 Nov 12 '14 at 20:27
  • -1, This would be okay if it said 'my being' rather than 'me being'. Then it would at least be correct, but still wouldn't explain much. – DCShannon Nov 13 '14 at 5:02

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