How to Match Possessive Pronouns to “-ing” Nouns
In English, a gerund is a noun made from the -ing form of a verb (swimming, smiling, and similar words). Not every noun that ends in –ing is a gerund; king and pudding, for example, aren’t, because they don’t arise from verbs. When you do run across a gerund, any noun or pronoun in front should be a possessive form if the focus of what you’re writing is the action the gerund expresses. Take a look at this sentence:
Carrie hates (me/my) auditioning for the new reality show, Nut Search.
Carrie doesn’t hate me. Instead, Carrie hates the whole reality-show project. The possessive pronoun my is the best choice because it shifts the reader’s attention to auditioning. The possessive form of a noun should also be your choice for the spot in front of an -ing noun. In the preceding sample sentence, the correct form is “Carrie hates my auditioning.”
Pronouns in this spot, like all pronouns, should match the word they refer to in number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine, feminine, neuter).
If you’re facing a standardized test, don’t nod off during this exercise. The SAT and other exams include this topic!
Try your hand at the following exercises. Select the pronouns you love and ignore the ones you hate.
- Lincoln said that he loved everything the employment agency did last week except (they/them/their) sending him too many pronoun-obsessed writers.
- “I object to (she/him/her) insisting on one pronoun per paragraph,” he muttered, as he eyed (she/her/his) ring, which made Lori’s finger sparkle.
Answers to practice questions
- their. Lincoln didn’t hate the people at the agency, but he didn’t love their sending pronoun-lovers. The possessive pronoun shifts the focus to the action, where it should be.
- her, her. The objection isn’t to a person (she) but to an action (insisting). I tucked one regular possessive pronoun problem into the end of the sentence, to see whether you were paying attention. Here, the ring belongs to her.