Possessive Pronoun with Gerund

The other day, I came across the sentence below:

I can understand you not telling him.

This is not correct. The sentence should read:

I can understand your not telling him.

Why? Because telling is a gerund, and when a pronoun precedes a gerund, the rule is to use the possessive case (your not you).

You may well ask, “What is a gerund?” In short, a gerund is a present participle used as a noun.

“Hold on there!” you say. “What is a present participle?” That’s another good question, and here’s the answer: A present participle is a verb stem with ing attached to the end of it–in this case, telling. Notice that with a present participle, the action is in progress right now.

Also notice that the participial phrase your not telling him is the object of the verb understand. In other words, it’s being used as a noun. That makes telling a gerund, and that in turn takes us full circle: the gerund telling calls for the possessive pronoun your.

Questions? Comments?


Tara Treasurefield

Tara’s Writing Studio


About 123clear

I translate foggy information into plain English.
This entry was posted in gerund, parts of speech, possessive pronoun, present participle, word usage. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Possessive Pronoun with Gerund

  1. Oh, Tara!!!! I LOVE YOU FOR POSTING THIS!!! I learned this a long time ago, but very few attorneys I’ve worked for believed me when I explained the rule. Thus, when I corrected their work, they incorrected my correction. GAH!

    Now that I have your post to back me up, I’ll feel better. It won’t stop stupid attorneys fro incorrecting me, but I’ll still feel better. 😉

  2. bringiton says:

    Tara, you are correct!
    Using the objective pronoun before the gerund, as in ‘you [not] telling,’ sounds like chalk scratching a blackboard.
    Thanks for your having clearly and concisely explained an issue that’s become a problem few understand.

  3. paras says:

    can we use a proper noun before a gerund.
    I can understand JOHN not telling him.

  4. Tara — I love your explanation: clear, concise. I write LONGGGGGG. Pronoun errors grate on me, & possessive-w/-gerund is usually ignored in some of my favorite authors’ works: [decided not to name in public — now that I can link to your excellent explanation, I’ll write to them privately.]

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