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Possessive case with the gerund Options
Konstantin Frolov
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 2:45:18 AM

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Hi!

I'm feeling confounded about the absence of the possessive 's in the sentence 'the stories of people mysterious disappearances', whereas it's incorrect to omit it in 'the president's mysterious disappearance'. Could anyone kindly explain to me the difference and give a couple more examples on both cases?

Kind regards
Fyfardens
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 3:04:31 AM
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Your title mentions 'gerund', but there are no gerunds in your post.

Konstantin Frolov wrote:
I'm feeling confounded about the absence of the possessive 's in the sentence 'the stories of people mysterious disappearances'


That should be people's. It's a mistake. But the way, the stories of people mysterious disappearances is only part of a sentence.

thar
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 3:10:56 AM

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It's wrong.

The stories of people's mysterious disappearances.

A clumsy sentence, in the plural. There are better ways to say it.

But it is 'the disappearances of people' - people's disappearances, just as it is 'the disappearance if the President' - the President's disappearance'.


In the plural, it is a bit clumsy. 'Of people' is even more clumsy.
Better choices would be
Stories of people mysteriously disappearing
Or
Stories of how people mysteriously disappear.


Edit
There is no gerund, that is a normal noun.
Konstantin Frolov
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 10:17:13 AM

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Oh, I'm terribly sorry, what I actually meant to write is 'stories about people mysteriously disappearing' and 'the President's mysterious disappearing'. As I'm writing this, however, it's getting clearer to me: in the first clause disappearing is a verb and a noun in the second. Am I right?

PS. The original sentence which aroused my question is 'Read on for 3 bizarre stories of people disappearing'
Helenej
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 11:00:13 AM

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It is the so-called gerundial complex, a noun or a pronoun plus gerund.

If the noun denotes a person, it is expressed by:

1. the noun in the possessive, which is typical of formal English.

"I disliked my chief's interfering in the affair."

2. the noun in the common case, which is used in spoken and less formal English.

"I dislike my mother interfering."




thar
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 11:47:46 AM

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Yes, you don't use the same structure.

I wouldn't call it a gerund. There is a perfectly good noun ypu can use a possessive with.

The President's disappearance.

The disappearance of somebody.

So to me the second is a verb, even if it forms part of a noun phrase.

..the President disappearing...
That is what has done

(Not speaking as a grammarian, but just as an explanation of why it feels wrong with a possessive).
Fyfardens
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 12:08:17 PM
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Helenej wrote:
It is the so-called gerundial complex


It is not called that in grammars written by Native-speaking grammarians.
Fyfardens
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 12:15:25 PM
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Konstantin Frolov wrote:
Oh, I'm terribly sorry, what I actually meant to write is 'stories about people mysteriously disappearing' and 'the President's mysterious disappearing'. As I'm writing this, however, it's getting clearer to me: in the first clause disappearing is a verb and a noun in the second. Am I right?


Grammarians and writers of style guides have been discussing this for a long time. There was a famous debate between Jespersen and Fowler in the pages of the 1920s. There is no general agreement on this even today, though the form without the apostrophe has become less criticised in recent years A one time, . purists insisted that only the form with the apostrophe was correct.

I would agree that the -ing form in the first has more of the qualities of a verb, and that in the second has more of the qualities of a noun, but that is only my personal opinion.


Helenej
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 1:15:04 PM

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Fyfardens wrote:
Helenej wrote:
It is the so-called gerundial complex

It is not called that in grammars written by Native-speaking grammarians.

Have you read them all?Anxious

Anyway, the name "gerundial complex", as well as "gerundial construction", "gerund complex" and "gerund construction" can be found throughout the Internet meaning the same thing: a noun/pronoun plus gerund.
Fyfardens
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2018 5:04:30 PM
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Helenej wrote:

Have you read them all


Of course not. Thanks to public and university libraries and the internet, I have probably read most of them. I have on my bookshelves 150 books on grammar dating from Bullokar (1586) to Aarts (2011). I'm afraid that age and fatigue have meant that I stopped with Aarts. I have to confess, therefore, that I am not as up to date as I would like to be.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Monday, January 08, 2018 5:58:04 AM

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I've been through a few of the sites mentioning 'gerundial complex' and they all seem to be talking about different things.

There's a Russian one which uses it to mean "possessive pronoun + gerund phrase" ("the dog's barking", "the people's mysterious disappearances").

There is one which I think is American (It is called "GMAT", but at the very end says in small letters "Not reviewed by or affiliated with GMAC") which says that a simple gerund is something like "barking" and a gerundial complex is something like "loud barking".

Test-English (which I think is American) says that a simple gerund is "barking" and a gerundial complex is "having barked", "being barked at" or "having been barked at".

There is a blog called "englishstandarts" which says a gerund complex is "possessive pronoun + gerund phrase" or "possessive noun + gerund phrase".
No idea where the blogger is from, but the spelling of 'standart' is used in Danish, Bulgarian and Russian (Стандарт).

Manhattan GMAT Prep College have a different idea.
I enjoy giving presents at Christmas. - this uses a simple gerund "giving".
I enjoy the giving of presents at Christmas. - this uses the gerund complex "the giving of presents".

There seems to be no agreement at all on what a gerund complex is - except another term for a gerund phrase.



Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Helenej
Posted: Monday, January 08, 2018 3:22:45 PM

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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
I enjoy the giving of presents at Christmas. - this uses the gerund complex "the giving of presents".

What a strange sentence. I can’t imagine a situation in which one would say it. If it sounded, “I enjoyed the giving of presents at Christmas”, it would be better. But in this case, “giving” would be a verbal noun, not a gerund.
Fyfardens
Posted: Monday, January 08, 2018 3:41:20 PM
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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
I enjoy the giving of presents at Christmas. - this uses the gerund complex "the giving of presents".



Helenej wrote:

What a strange sentence. I can’t imagine a situation in which one would say it. If it sounded, “I enjoyed the giving of presents at Christmas”, it would be better. .


Neither sentence is particularly natural, but both are possible. Drag0's version is about the enjoyment every Christmas, yours about the enjoyment at a past Christmas.
Helenej
Posted: Monday, January 08, 2018 4:32:20 PM

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Fyfardens wrote:
Neither sentence is particularly natural, but both are possible. Drag0's version is about the enjoyment every Christmas, yours about the enjoyment at a past Christmas.

Both sentences in question are Drag0's. Mine is just correction and we are not discussing it.

I meant that no one would say

"I enjoy the giving of presents every Christmas".

Can you think of a context in which it could be said?




Fyfardens
Posted: Monday, January 08, 2018 4:54:32 PM
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Helenej wrote:

I meant that no one would say

"I enjoy the giving of presents every Christmas".

Can you think of a context in which it could be said?


Yes. It could be said by somebody who enjoys giving, and possibly seeing other people giving, presents every Christmas.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 4:06:23 AM

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I must admit that it's probably not something which is said every day . . .
That was the example used in the text by Manhattan College.

Try this (probably a bit more common).

I enjoy my playing the trumpet. (gerund) (I play the trumpet.)
I enjoy the playing of trumpets. (gerund complex) (I listen to others playing trumpets.)

In my opinion, they are both just a gerund (playing) in different contexts. I see no need to invent a name for that particular gerund phrase.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 4:18:41 AM

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Konstantin Frolov wrote:
Oh, I'm terribly sorry, what I actually meant to write is 'stories about people mysteriously disappearing' and 'the President's mysterious disappearing'. As I'm writing this, however, it's getting clearer to me: in the first clause disappearing is a verb and a noun in the second. Am I right?

PS. The original sentence which aroused my question is 'Read on for 3 bizarre stories of people disappearing'

Hello Konstantin.
I just realised that this question was not answered.

Yes.
"I like stories of people mysteriously disappearing."
In this , the phrase "people mysteriously disappearing" acts as a noun - but the word "disappearing" is a verb participle.
(It's a phrase and not a clause, because it doesn't have a finite verb, only a participle.)

"I heard of the president's mysterious disappearing."
in this one, the word "disappearing" is a noun (gerund).

EDITED to add:
In that second sentence, it would be more likely to see the noun "disappearance", but the principle is correct.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Fyfardens
Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 4:27:22 AM
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Drag0nspeaker wrote:


I enjoy my playing the trumpet.

That one seems rather unlikely to me. It's far more natural with the 'my', in my opinion.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 4:35:09 AM

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Fyfardens wrote:
. . .

You're right - I wasn't thinking straight.
Naturally, I would omit the 'my' and just say "I enjoy playing the trumpet." - but that sounds more like a verb.

It's a bit of a moot point sometimes - the "border" between a participle and a gerund is a bit "fuzzy".
Often it doesn't matter what you call it - it's the meaning which counts.

"I enjoy your playing the trumpet" definitely uses a gerund.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Fyfardens
Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 5:34:10 AM
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Drag0nspeaker wrote:

It's a bit of a moot point sometimes - the "border" between a participle and a gerund is a bit "fuzzy".


Quite. Quirk et al (1985.1290-91) list a 'complex gradience' of -ing forms from count noun - 'some paintings of Brown's' - to the 'purely participle form in a finite verb phrase in Brown is painting his daughter.. They 'do not find it useful to distinguish a gerund and a participle', referring to all such-ing forms as participles.

Huddleston and Pullum (2002.81) argue that
'a distinction between gerund and present participle can't be sustained', referring to all such -ing forms as gerund-participles.

Aarts (2011.221-31) labels all such -ing forms -ing participles.


Quote:
Often it doesn't matter what you call it - it's the meaning which counts.

Applause Applause Applause



Quirk et al (1985), .A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Longman.
Huddleston and Pullum (2002), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, CUP
Aarts (2011), Aarts (2011) Oxford Modern English Grammar, OUP
Helenej
Posted: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 10:02:04 AM

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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
I enjoy my playing the trumpet. (gerund) (I play the trumpet.)
I enjoy the playing of trumpets. (gerund complex) (I listen to others playing trumpets.)

In my opinion, they are both just a gerund (playing) in different contexts. I see no need to invent a name for that particular gerund phrase.

Now I understand. "I enjoy the playing of trumpets" is more specific than "I enjoy my playing the trumpet". "My playing the trumpet" is always while "the playing of trumpets" is related to some point in time.

Thank you, Drag0.
Fyfardens
Posted: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 10:13:29 AM
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Helenej wrote:

Now I understand. "I enjoy the playing of trumpets" is more specific than "I enjoy my playing the trumpet". "My playing the trumpet" is always while "the playing of trumpets" is related to some point in time.

I don't agree. While neither sentence is particularly natural, if we do accept them, then 'my playing' is more specific then 'the playing'.
Helenej
Posted: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 10:25:11 AM

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Fyfardens wrote:
I don't agree. While neither sentence is particularly natural, if we do accept them, then 'my playing' is more specific then 'the playing'.

I mean "specific" in terms of time.

"I enjoy my playing the trumpet" means "I get pleasure any time I play the trumpet".

"I enjoy the playing of trumpets" means "I get pleasure now, listening to some people trumping".

Am I wrong?

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 10:52:31 AM

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Hi Helene.

I think that you are right - that is likely the way that sentence would be used, if anyone ever said it.
However, technically, it could mean "I enjoy hearing people play trumpets (at any time)."

These examples are a bit 'strained' (they would normally be re-worded to be more specific and clear) - but I can't think of any better ones showing the use of an "-ing" word in noticeably different ways in similar sentences.

Normally you would hear something like:
I like hearing trumpets played. (general, no fixed time)
I like playing the trumpet. (general, no fixed time)
I like hearing him/them playing the trumpet. (probably right now, but it could be any time)

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
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