From a gram­mar book, I’ve have learned that a gerund clause can be op­tion­ally pre­ceded by a per­sonal pro­noun to show the log­i­cal sub­ject of the verb; that is, who­ever is do­ing the gerund’s ac­tion.
I’ve also learned that a pos­ses­sive per­sonal pro­noun is usu­ally more ac­cept­able here than a pro­noun in an­other gram­mat­i­cal case like those used for sub­jects or ob­jects of fi­nite clauses.

With gerund clauses, there’a a cer­tain struc­ture that runs like this:

  1. It’s no use do­ing some­thing.

in which do­ing some­thing is the gerund clause and do­ing the gerund head­ing that clause.

My question is: Can we also add a pos­ses­sive pro­noun be­fore do­ing in that par­tic­u­lar struc­ture? So for ex­am­ple like this:

  1. It’s no use his cry­ing over lost love.

Does it sound com­pletely nor­mal to use the pro­noun his there to say who’s do­ing that ac­tion?

If not, is there some other way of say­ing it that would be more com­mon and nat­u­ral-sound­ing to na­tive speak­ers?

  • Yes, we can do this. – Greybeard Mar 8 at 11:05
  • I'm not sure what the question is here. Why do you doubt what you read in the book? – CJ Dennis Mar 8 at 11:17
  • I thought so too. But I searched in the American Contemporary Corpus with the word string 'no use his doing' as well as 'no use your doing', and found no matching results, so I feel unassured and turned over here to ask this question. As native speakers of English, could you tell me if I can add a possessive pronoun in front of any gerunds to show who does the action, regardless of what constituents they function as in sentences? Many thanks. – Eglantine Mar 8 at 11:21
  • Because the grammar book is not written by native speakers of English, and far from enough is explained on this grammar point. Only a few example sentences are provided in the book. I am learning English where it's not a second language but a foreign language, meaning my scanty exposure to English materials and lack of grammar written by English-speaking grammaticians. – Eglantine Mar 8 at 11:30
  • "It's no use his crying over the lost love" would not be idiomatic AE. – Hot Licks Mar 8 at 13:01

In the grammar book, I have learned that a gerund can be preceded by a pronoun (usually more acceptable, a possessive pronoun) to show who it is that does this action.

Any noun can be used as the subject of the participial clause, not just pronouns. You should think of the -ing part as a clause, forget about the term "gerund". This and any other clause has to have the subject. It may not be overtly shown in the sentence, but it has to be understood, otherwise the clause wouldn't be interpretable. When you say: There's no use crying. the subject of "crying" comes from the context (rather than from the sentence).

As for the case, the accusative is as common as genitive (or even preferred choice). It was different in the past though. Here's from Jespersen's Modern Grammar, :

With pronouns , we find both cases (nom. and oblique) used here, the latter however chiefly in vulgar speech, which here as elsewhere, tends to use the oblique in many combinations where educated speech has the nominative.

Jespersen was a Dane, but he was obviously a good English grammarian. Don't let that bother you too much.

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  • Many thanks, so could I interpret it as such that we can grammatically add a pronoun/possessive pronoun/any genitive of a noun preceding a gerund to refer to the logical doer of this gerund action, though it's not always semantically necessary in any cases? – Eglantine Mar 8 at 12:11
  • You are welcome Eglantine! You should stop thinking about this construction as peculiar to pronouns. Subject of the ing clause can be any noun. As in any other clause, which subject you use depends on what you want to say and nothing else. "She likes Michael telling us stories". "She likes him telling us stories". "She likes telling us stories." . You pick the subject you have in mind. In the last sentence the subject is not overt, but it is clearly understood from the sentence. It is coreferential with the subject of the main clause: "She is telling us stories" – user97589 Mar 8 at 12:13
  • Many thanks for your explaining this grammar point to me. Best wishes to you:) – Eglantine Mar 8 at 12:20
  • My pleasure Eglantine! – user97589 Mar 8 at 12:21
  • 'the subject of "crying" comes from the context (rather than from the sentence)' is not using 'subject' in the way grammatical analysis demends. 'Crying' is non-finite, not taking a subject; contrast 'cries' in 'Billy cries a lot' and 'cried' in 'She cried when she heard the news'. 'Subject' is a syntactical term. You want 'referent', though even that has conflicting definitions. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 6 at 13:23

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