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I read this thread on the usage of the gerund preceded by the possessive pronoun with much interest.

I have another question about the usage of the gerund preceded by the possessive pronoun.

In a test from a textbook I am using, one must choose the correct form of the bracketed word in the following sentence (I have simplified it somewhat):

Company X experimented with its (expand)__ into a new business area.

The given answer is "expansion." To me, this intuitively feels more comfortable than the gerund "expanding."

My question, however, is the following:

Is the gerund also grammatically correct in this sentence?

In the example sentences throughout this thread so far, there are no cases in which the subject of the sentence and the subject of the gerund clause are the same, not to mention cases in which the verb of the gerund clause is intransitive and followed by a preposition.

For example:

The monkey seemed to be preoccupied with its prying off the lid of the jar.

Again, this sounds very awkward to me, but I'm not sure if it's incorrect.

I also wondered if there might not be a rule that if a verb has a standard nominalized form (expand -> expansion), it needs to take precedence over the gerund when it is preceded by the genitive case.

Are such matters entirely irrelevant to my question?

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"...experimented with its expanding into..." works, but it's less common I believe. "The monkey seemed to be preoccupied with its prying off the lid of the jar" is okay, and I cannot offhand think of any non-drastic rephrasing. –  user730 Dec 14 '10 at 3:22
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While those forms may be correct, I would tend to shy away from including the unnecessary possessive adjective, "its", in both cases. –  Jimi Oke Dec 14 '10 at 4:12
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Hmm, yes, I'd agree with Jimi's note; you can trim off the "its" with no loss of clarity. –  user730 Dec 14 '10 at 4:22

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I agree with J.M. and Jimi.

It's semantically acceptable to use a gerund following a possessive pronoun, but, as with anything, it can be clearer in some sentences (e.g., "his new shoes really helped with his running...") than in others ("Company X experimented with its expanding into a new business area...").

Just my two cents!

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Thanks to J.M. and Jimi as well, and thanks to you, Joel. I am happy with these answers. –  xaky Dec 16 '10 at 7:42

Jane loses her parents -> Jane's losing her parents [transitive]

The company expands -> The company's expansion [intransitive]

I think that if it is an intransitive verb that can be formed, it's more common to use the nominalized form instead.

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That makes sense, thanks. –  xaky Dec 16 '10 at 7:41

One does not get to make comments in a test, but… I think the sentence about the company does not work. If you talk about “its expansion” or “its expanding”, you are talking about all the pertinent activity, as one concept. It is not coherent to come from outside this concept, and talk about experimenting on it.

Surely the idea is, rather, that the activity was done experimentally.

That is: the sentence should be “The company experimented with expanding into a new business area.” Omitting “its” is not merely acceptable, but necessary. (You could save the sentence, grammatically, either by taking “its” are referring to another party, or by imagining that the object of the experiment was some other phenomenon (such as public opinion). However, both of these moves just create more problems.)

It is similar with the sentence about the monkey; it would have be a monkey very clever indeed, to be capable of being preoccupied with the phenomenon of its own efforts, even while engaged in them. Again, the “its” must go. As for the point simchona was making: I suggest that the closest you could get to something like that would be something like “One should be content with just being.”

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The monkey seemed to be preoccupied with its prying off the lid of the jar.

Does the previous sentence not flow better by re-phrasing the sentence to:

The monkey seemed to be preoccupied with its prying the lid off the jar.

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