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I'm providing the following sentences as representatives of other similar instances.

The survival of a TV channel depends on it attracting as many viewers as possible.

The survival of a TV channel depends on its attracting as many viewers as possible.

  1. Which one would be preferable?

  2. I've seen both of the forms before. What is the related grammar/usage called so I can study further?

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  • The top one. The second isn't really grammatically correct. You could say "The survival of a TV channel depends on its ability to attract as many viewers as possible", or something similar.
    – Anonymous
    Sep 9, 2016 at 12:16
  • To clarify; attracting can be a noun, so the use of the possessive pronoun its isn't strictly wrong, but it is unusual, and the second sentence looks a little odd to me.
    – Anonymous
    Sep 9, 2016 at 12:21
  • 2
    Thanks, but this page and many others seem to suggest otherwise... dummies.com/education/language-arts/grammar/…
    – Apollonian
    Sep 9, 2016 at 12:32
  • @EdwinAshworth This question was asked 4 years ago, and already answered! I just referred the other OP here!
    – Apollonian
    Jan 2, 2020 at 12:47
  • I just pressed the 'this is a duplicate, in my opinion' CV button and the 'polite' version of 'this is possibly a duplicate' pops up. If it were my question and I realised it was a duplicate, I'd just close it. Jan 2, 2020 at 14:26

1 Answer 1

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The survival of a TV channel depends [on it /its attracting as many viewers as possible].

There’s no difference in the meaning or the grammar, though using the genitive pronoun "its" is seen as being slightly more formal - that’s all.

The bracketed element is a preposition phrase headed by "on"; the PP functions as complement of the verb “depends”. Functioning as complement to the preposition “on” is the gerund-participial clause, which has "it /its" as subject, "attracting" as verb, and the comparative expression "as many viewers as possible" as object. Note that the two as’s are in construction as part of the comparison.

Regarding the contrast between "it" and "its" as subject: older grammars would analyse "attracting" as a gerund when used with genitive "its". Modern grammars do not usually use the term ‘gerund’ like this; "attracting" would simply be analysed as a verb as can be seen from the way it takes an object "as many viewers as possible", as I outlined above.

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