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(a) We filter out information that the brain deprioritizes without our knowing it. (b)We filter out information that the brain deprioritizes without us knowing it.

I came across the sentence (a) above, modified for clarification. I wonder it is possible to use "us," as in sentence (b), instead of "our," as in (a). If possible, is there any semantic difference between these two sentences? Could [my(her, their, etc.) + -ing form] and [me (her, them, etc.) + -ing form] in a sentence always be used interchangeably with little or no difference in meaning? Grammatically, is the phrase "our knowing it" in sentence (a) considered a present participle or gerund? I know both of the following sentences are just fine, with (c) a more formal tone. (c) Do you mind my smoking? (d) Do you mind me smoking? Generally, however, I have no idea what exactly is semantically different between "my + -ing form" and "me + -ing form," nor the underlying grammatical logic. Thanks in advance.

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  • Yes: they are interchangeable, and no: there are no semantic differences other than, as you say, the form with a genitive pronoun is a tad more formal. Trad grammar calls "our knowing it" /"my smoking" gerund clauses.
    – BillJ
    Oct 12 '19 at 9:58
  • Thanks. So, "without our/us knowing" is considered a gerund clause. I believe the possessive construction with -ing clauses is rarely seen in present-day English. How about this?
    – user48754
    Oct 12 '19 at 11:00
  • I haven't seen any recent statistics, so I'm not certain. Incidentally, be careful about your example (c). "Smoking" could be a noun or a verb -- see my answer below.
    – BillJ
    Oct 12 '19 at 11:12
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[a] We filter out information that the brain deprioritizes without our knowing it.

[b] We filter out information that the brain deprioritizes without us knowing it.

These are both fine and interchangeable. There are no semantic differences other than, as you suggest, that the construction with a genitive pronoun [a] is more formal.

The same applies to your other examples where both "me" and "my" are fine. But a note of caution:

[c] Do you mind my smoking?

Here, the syntactic status of "smoking" is strictly speaking ambiguous: it could be either a verb or a noun. The latter interpretation can be forced by adjectival premodification, as in Do you mind my occasional smoking?

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There is a different of politeness between me +ing form and my +ing form. It also reflects you are uneducated if you use me + -ing form

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  • There's nothing ungrammatical about "Do you mind me smoking".
    – BillJ
    Oct 12 '19 at 9:49

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