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So I was writing an first-person essay, and my Taiwanese English teacher told me that one of the sentence is missing the Subject "I", however my Canadian English teacher suggests that it is okay to ignore "I" if the narrator is yourself.

So here goes the sentence:

.... At first she disagreed, but after persuading her that scary movies are not real, she was convinced. ....

Okay, my Taiwanese teacher thinks that "persuading her" is missing the Subject, so we don't know who is doing that which is an obvious grammar error, while my Canadian teacher thinks it's okay to ignore the subject here, since the readers already know that this is a first-person essay, it should be the narrator "persuading".

Who is correct?

  • Generally in such a sentence, the "I" occurs in another place within the sentence or closeby, such that it is implied by context. The example sentence in the question is ungrammatical. If there is no ambiguity in the context, ( "we don't know who is doing that"/ "the readers already know"), then it is fine in literary use, though. – Kris Aug 18 '15 at 7:33
  • Please also visit English Language Learners – Kris Aug 18 '15 at 7:34
  • Would have to see more context to tell if "I" could be reasonably inferred. – Hot Licks Aug 18 '15 at 12:44
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Your Canadian teacher is right.

Your Taiwanese teacher is objecting to the so-called dangling participle. Prescriptive approach dictates that what you are really saying in that sentence is "At first she disagreed, but after she herself persuaded herself that scary movies are not real, she was convinced." Which of course is total nonsense and everybody, including your Taiwanese teacher, knows full well that that is absolutely not what you are saying.

From any descriptivist's standpoint, what you have there is a perfectly natural, grammatical construction that is widely used and understood. It is a) a shorthand that b) still leaves it perfectly clear who did what. That's why it exists in the first place. And in pretty much all natural languages that have participles, by the way, not just English.

So, if all you are after is grammatically impeccable unambiguous English, leave the sentence as is. If you are after sidestepping any criticism whatsoever by the ignorant and the ill-willing, then do go ahead and reword, but be aware that the ignorant and the ill-willing will always find something else to criticise for no reason and to no end, as that is their whole job description.

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I wouldn't say one is correct strictly speaking. This is really more of a stylistic issue as far as I can tell, but between them I would side with your Canadian instructor that it is inferred and therefore unnecessary to add the "I".

  • It could be that a group of people are doing the persuading. However I think that would be clear from the larger context. – sdgluck Aug 18 '15 at 7:21
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In conversational American English, we'd leave out the "I" there especially if the persuader was understood to be the speaker or a group of people with the speaker among them; or we'd say "after I persuaded her" or even "but after me persuading her" which is regarded as substandard for "after my persuading her".

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Though not uncommon in conversation, this clearly is technically incorrect, as a dangling participle. You could correct it very simply, by saying "at first she disagreed, but after being persuaded that scary movies are not real, she was [or became depending on your intended meaning] convinced..."

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It is not correct for other reasons. The sentence talks of 'she': first she disagreed, but due to some actions she was convinced. So, you have to talk of the 'action' that made her convince. This action could be 'persuading that scary movies are not real'. So, in this 'action' part you shouldn't mention 'her' - the object of the action. So, the sentence could become:

At first she disagreed, but after persuading that scary movies are not real, she was convinced.

When an object is mentioned, as in 'after persuading her', normally there has to be subject. For example:

At first she disagreed, but after persuading her that scary movies are not real, I could convince her.

Thus, either you write your sentence with pure reference to the action without mentioning the object, or you mention both object and subject. Yet another way could be:

At first she disagreed, but after I persuaded her that scary movies are not real, she was convinced.

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