Possessives with gerunds



I know that it’s correct to use a possessive with the gerund, as in:


I really appreciate your bringing this matter to my attention.


Everybody was shocked about Henry’s leaving so suddenly.

But why do these sentence seem awkward?


The students were happy about their having completed the difficult course.


Anna complained about her being treated so badly.


Tom’s being straightforward about the situation helped his own cause immensely.

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It’s true that possessive adjectives correctly modify gerunds; this is one efficient way to indicate who is performing the action of the gerund.

However, when the action of the gerund is performed by the subject of the sentence—or when it is clear to whom the action applies—the possessive is not used. Not only is the possessive unnecessary, it is redundant and makes the sentence awkward. The possessive adjectives their and her can and should be removed from sentences (c) and (d) above. In sentence (e), remove Tom’s as the modifier of “being?and substitute “his?or “his own?with Tom’s.
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