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I have been thinking about this for quite a while and have done some research on it. What I have learned is that possessive pronoun+gerund is a structure that's more "formal", while object pronoun + gerund is less formal. Also, some people suggest that using the structure of possessive noun+noun might be more idiomatic and make the sentence easier to understand.

What I want to know is whether in the formal writing style the structure of "object+gerund" should never be used.

It just sounds quite clumsy when the "formal style" is used.

For example:

  1. Soldiers walking slowly in two lines toward the enemies might look crazy to people nowadays.
  2. Soldiers' walking slowly in two lines toward the enemies might look crazy to people nowadays.

Note that in the first example I am not talking about "soldiers who walked slowly in two lines toward the enemies" but "the fact that soldiers walked slowly in two lines toward the enemies"

And also,

  1. Do you mind me telling you the truth?
  2. Do you mind my telling you the truth?

Do the sentences that contain the structure of "object pronoun+gerund" confuse you or make you think it's so informal that it should not be seen in newspapers or prestigious magazines such as the Times or the Economist?

Thanks in advance! Any opinions are welcome!

  • In your example, they mean two different things. The first means that the soldiers might look crazy; the second that what the soldiers are doing might look crazy. For pronouns, there's no ambiguity. – Peter Shor Jan 26 at 15:34
  • You may find my answer here: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/191991/… useful. – Gustavson Jan 26 at 15:39
  • Thank you for replying. As I have stated earlier, I am not talking about the soldiers but about what they did. Is it totally impossible to convey that meaning with "object noun + gerund"? I have seen people use it very often and it even appears in a dictionary. Check this out: macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/approve – Chien Te Lu Jan 26 at 15:40
  • @Gustavson Thank you for replying to my post again! The information you have provided is very useful and relevant. Then would you please kindly share with us what you personally think about it? – Chien Te Lu Jan 26 at 15:43
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    @BillJ Thank you for replying. I know it's formal but it just sometimes sounds clumsy when other verbs are being used. For example, "I don't approve of people killing each other over different ideologies" sounds better and more natural than "I don't approve of people's killing each other over different ideologies". It might be my personal preference though. I am not a native speaker so I can't say which one of them is more acceptable. – Chien Te Lu Jan 26 at 16:32

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