Tag Archive - possessives

Getting Possessive with Gerunds

Let’s talk about the use of possessive pronouns with a gerund (word ending in ing). It sounds more complicated and technical than it is. If you can answer this question about the following sentence, you can master this.

Is the verb (action/feeling) directed at the person or their action?

  • I resented my mother-in-law being late for dinner.
  • I resented my mother-in-law’s being late for dinner.

Forget my relationship with my mother-in-law. I didn’t resent her. I resented her lateness for the meal I’d prepared. The possessive (mother-in-law’s) precedes the gerund (being) and makes clear it’s my mother-in-law’s action, not her, that I resent. However, if you want to point out that it’s she who is late rather than someone else, the first example would be the one you want to use. You would not use a possessive in that instance. Continue Reading…

Joint Ownership 

Let’s talk a bit about joint possession and the proper way to express this. Possession can get a bit tricky, and writers often don’t stop to think about the nuances. Take a look at this sentence:

  • We always go to my uncle and aunt’s house for the holidays.

Unless your uncle and aunt have separate homes, the sign of possession—the apostrophe—is placed with the second noun. The pair is treated as a unit; that’s  what joint ownership is, after all.

Things get a little trickier when you replace one of the nouns with a pronoun. Which is correct?

  • We’re going to him (referring to your uncle) and my aunt’s house
  • We’re going to his and my aunt’s house

Continue Reading…

A Friend of Yours?

Are you a friend of John or a friend of John’s? Often writers will leave off the “possessive” apostrophe+s, but you need it. Think about these two phrases:

A portrait of King Henry

A portrait of King Henry’s

In the first instance, you have a portrait of the king. In the second instance, the king owns a portrait. There’s a huge difference in meaning here. So are you a friend of John? No, you are John’s friend—a friend of John’s. And hopefully, he is a friend of yours (not a friend of you).