I understanding that the following sentence is reasonably good for expressing the given idea.

(1) This method is likely to be biased since this requires participants to bring their own laptops.

However, I was curious to know if the following is correct (given that it sounds better at least to me).

(2) This method is likely to be biased since this requires participants' bringing their own laptops.

  • 4
    This has been discussed at length at When is a gerund supposed to be preceded by a possessive pronoun. Granted, this question here is about the case of a noun (participants vs. participants') rather than that of a pronoun (him vs. his), but really, it's the same question. (And in speech it doesn't even matter at all since participants and participants' are pronounced exactly the same, as opposed to him vs. his.)
    – RegDwigнt
    May 30, 2012 at 17:15
  • 1
    I wish you wouldn't call gerunds "nouns ending in -ing". Gerunds are verbs, not nouns. (There are nouns derived from verbs by adding -ing, but those are not gerunds.)
    – Greg Lee
    Feb 28, 2015 at 22:51

4 Answers 4


This can be seen in two ways. To see how, substitute their for participants’, and then them for participants. Use the first if you want to emphasise the act of bringing and the second if you want to emphasise that it is they who are doing it.


Your first version is perfectly grammatical.

Regarding the second version, it is also grammatical, and you can arguably write it with or without the apostrophe.

There are generally (at least) two possible gerundive constructions:

(a) Him participating is important.

(b) His participating is important.

To me, version (b) is simply an unnatural hypercorrection whereas version (a) is the version that speakers would naturally use prior to indoctrination with prescriptivist fallacy. However, if you would naturally use version (b)-- or if you believe in the prescriptivist fallacy that dictates that you "should" use version (b)-- then that would be an argument for putting the apostrophe.

  • While this doesn't apply to all situations, in this case this can be rewritten as "His participation is important." Flows more easily, and avoids the him/his argument altogether. Jul 15, 2015 at 15:59

No apostrophe is need in the second case. The possessive is their.

  • 1
    "participants'" refers to the gerund "bringing", though, Henry.
    – JeffSahol
    May 30, 2012 at 17:34
  • 2
    OK - but in the case with pronouns, both versions seem to be used, though personally I would use the accusative. I would see participants' bringing as likely to make me stop and think rather than continue reading.
    – Henry
    May 30, 2012 at 17:40

Both sentences are correct. The second is used more often in formal writing.

  • @Chenmunka Barry and Neil have argued that the apostrophe is not wrong. Please don't disagree with an answer in comments: if you feel that an answer is incorrect, vote on it.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 3, 2014 at 23:12

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