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What is the difference between the two sentences below?

Are they both grammatically correct?

  1. I dislike his being blunt.
  2. I dislike him being blunt.
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  • I dislike him being blunt is more commonly used, but I dislike his being blunt is heard although it seems slightly archaic. Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 10:03
  • The example sentences don't sound too idiomatic; 'I don't like him being so blunt' is what I'd expect. // With 'I didn't like his singing at the opera', the POSS-ing variant focuses on the performance. With 'I didn't like him singing at the opera', the ACC-ing, the focus is either on the choice of tenor, or on concern for 'his' poor health etc. Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 10:21
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    Both accusative "him" and genitive "his" are correct, the only difference being one of formality with the genitive being a tad more formal.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 13:03

2 Answers 2

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"I dislike his being blunt" means I dislike it when he speaks in a blunt manner. "I dislike him being blunt" means I dislike this person-- when he is being blunt. Actually, the first is more grammatically correct--and this is probably what the speaker means to say--- but people very often use the second way.

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    That's a better answer than my one! Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 11:46
  • The interpretation you describe in the second sentence isn't convincing to me. "Him being blunt" is horribly awkward as a noun phrase.
    – herisson
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 16:48
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Technically 1 is correct and 2 is incorrect, but in practice people use both.

In the example, "being blunt" is a gerund, and takes the possessive, ie "his". (See http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/do-i-hate-your-singing-or-you-singing).

Gerunds are nouns made out of verbs, and that is why they are used with possessive pronouns. If the gerund / noun "being blunt" was replaced with a more straightforward noun such as "hair", the sentence would have to be "I dislike his hair", and could not be "I dislike him hair".

In theory the gerund behaves in the same way - though in real usage it is probably more common to use "him" rather than "his", especially when speaking. In writing people tend to be slightly more formal, so you are more likely to see "his" in written examples.

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    Personal pronoun subjects of non-finite gerund-participial clauses in complement function can be genitive or non-genitive. If non-genitive, then accusative case is right. So in the OP’s example, both genitive “his” and accusative “him” are correct, the only difference being one of formality with the genitive being a tad more formal. Your example is irrelevant since “hair” is a noun, whereas “being blunt” is a non-finite clause as complement to “dislike”, so different considerations apply. And "being" is a verb, not a noun, since it has an adjectival predicative complement. Only verbs have PCs.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 13:24

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