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"She did not much like him, but she liked HIS liking her."

Posted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:15 am UTC
by Wowfunhappy
Let me be very clear that this IS a homework question, which the rules said were okay on rare occasions if were up front about it. I certainly don't plan on making a habit of this.

Google is wonderful when you have a question that can be described in a few key words. When you don't, however, Google is much less useful, and thus I'm a bit stuck on a very minor gramer-related english assignment we got.

My english professor gave us two examples in class today:

"The closest thing I ever saw to an embrace was them dancing." vs "The closest thing I ever saw to an embrace was their dancing." The second sentence is correct.

And:

"She did not much like him, but she liked him liking her." vs "She did not much like him, but she liked his liking her." Again, the second sentence is correct.

Our homework is to figure out why the second sentence in both examples is the correct one. Without knowing what this type of error is called though, I'm not sure how to find out.

So, does anyone know what this is called? I absolutely ADORE this professor–-she might be the best teacher I've ever had--but I'm at a complete loss as to how to find this.

Re: "She did not much like him, but she liked HIS liking her

Posted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:37 am UTC
by gmalivuk
Do you know the specific grammatical name for the verb(ing) form? As in, "dance" is the simple or base form, "danced" is the past form, "dancing" is the ____?

Combined with that, do you know the name for "their" and "his" as opposed to "them" and "him"?

Re: "She did not much like him, but she liked HIS liking her

Posted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:23 pm UTC
by davidstarlingm
While I won't come right out and provide the answer, breaking the sentence up into its proper components might help you find it. [Brackets] denote clauses, {curly braces} denote phrases, bold denotes a noun, underline denotes a verb, italics denotes a modifier.

  • She did not much like him, but she liked his liking her.
  • [She did not much like him], but [she liked his liking her].
  • [{She} {did not much like} {him}], but [{she} {liked} {his liking her}].
  • [{She} {did not much like} {him}], but [{she} {liked} {his liking her}].
  • [{She} {did not much like} {him}], but [{she} {liked} {his liking her}].
So both the clauses are basic SVO clauses, making "his liking her" a noun phrase. Hopefully, that will help you to intuitively grasp what's going on, and maybe lead you to the answer.

Re: "She did not much like him, but she liked HIS liking her

Posted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:56 pm UTC
by Qaanol
Since you're trying to learn, I will tell you the names of some relevant terms. Look into the difference between a gerund and a present participle.

You will also note that both "She heard him singing" and "She heard his singing" are valid in standard English, with slightly different meanings.

Re: "She did not much like him, but she liked HIS liking her

Posted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:23 pm UTC
by Adam H
"The closest thing I ever saw to an embrace was them dancing."

"She did not much like him, but she liked him liking her."

So... are these grammatically incorrect? If there was a comma after them and him (respectively) would it make them correct?

Re: "She did not much like him, but she liked HIS liking her

Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:09 am UTC
by Wowfunhappy
Qaanol wrote:Since you're trying to learn, I will tell you the names of some relevant terms. Look into the difference between a gerund and a present participle.

Aha! Thank you, "gerund" was the term I needed to find information.

Google was useless but I found it in my grammar handbook. For the curious: "A pronoun that modifies a gerund or a gerund phrase should be in the possessive case." This is because gerund phrases function as nouns rather than adjectives.


Adam H wrote:So... are these grammatically incorrect? If there was a comma after them and him (respectively) would it make them correct?

I think a comma would change the meaning of the sentence. "She did not much like him, but she liked him, liking her." The comma essentially makes the "liking her" part of the sentence optional, leaving you with "She did not much like him, but she liked him." I guess that's grammatically correct but it makes no sense. Does she like him or not?

Re: "She did not much like him, but she liked HIS liking her

Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:51 am UTC
by Derek
Adam H wrote:
"The closest thing I ever saw to an embrace was them dancing."

"She did not much like him, but she liked him liking her."

So... are these grammatically incorrect? If there was a comma after them and him (respectively) would it make them correct?

Descriptively they're both perfectly fine, and as Qaanol said there is actually a slight difference in meaning that most speakers will understand (especially obvious in "she heard him/his singing", another good example is "she didn't like him/his flying"), so it's good to understand both. But many prescriptivists disapprove of forms like "them dancing" or "him liking".

Re: "She did not much like him, but she liked HIS liking her

Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:19 pm UTC
by eSOANEM
Derek is right in that the "wrong" forms you were given are definitely not wrong in that the vast majority of native speakers will prefer to use them. Your teacher is trying to teach some irrelevant prescriptivist rule which only serves to make your communication less easy for people to understand, it's useful to know the rule so that, when having to conform to an absurd standard of English which has never been a spoken standard you can but don't feel any need to stick to it when speaking.

Re: "She did not much like him, but she liked HIS liking her

Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:57 pm UTC
by Aiwendil
I have what many would call dangerous prescriptivist tendencies, but even I agree that there is nothing wrong with either form. In:

She did not much like him, but she liked him liking her.


. . . the object of 'liked' is 'him', and 'liking' is a participle modifying 'him'.

In

She did not much like him, but she liked his liking her.


. . . the object of 'liked' is the gerund 'liking', and 'his' is a possessive pronoun modifying 'liking'.

They are grammatically different, but both parse just fine.