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I'm current curious about this sentence's grammar:

What led to you doing this thing?

It sounds like "you doing this thing" is noun. What is this grammar?

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Actually seeing how you've tagged this "gerund" yourself, you seem to be well aware of how this works and what it's called, so I'm not quite sure how to approach the question. "You doing this thing" is a noun phrase in which the role of the head noun is played by a gerund. Not sure what we can add to that that you're still missing. –  RegDwigнt Apr 20 '12 at 15:09
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

What you effectively have is a clause that fills the slot in a sentence ordinarily filled by a noun phrase.

Languages have various mechanisms for this. As in this example, a common structure in English is to have a clause with what is sometimes termed a gerundive form (effectively, an -ing form used in a syntactic structure that fills a 'noun phrase' slot but that internally is still ostensibly verbal-- e.g. can still have a subject and object, be passivised etc just like a normal verb). As you can see, a special feature of a gerundive clause in English is that the subject usually occurs in the oblique form, so e.g. "him" rather than "he" in the example below:

[Him doing this] is important.

[??*He doing this] is important.

(You can also get "his", although that's arguably just a prescriptive hypercorrection.)

Both English and other languages have other structures to cover this function. Romance languages, for example, have subjunctive forms that function in a very similar way. English can also employ a clause with an (explicit or implied) modal verb, or an infinitival clause usually introduced by "for":

What we need is [ for him to help us ].

[ That he should choose to help us ] was a surprise.

We requested [ that he (M) help us ].

where in one possible analysis, (M) stands for a 'null' modal verb.

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In ‘you doing this thing’, ‘doing’ is a non-finite verb. Another way to express it is with ‘your doing this thing’, where ‘doing’ is a noun. The first emphasises the act of doing, while the second, which sounds rather more formal, emphasises that it was ‘you’ doing it.

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