Chronicle article on sentence diagramming

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat May 16 13:00:53 UTC 2009

At 5/15/2009 11:48 PM, Gordon, Matthew J. wrote:
>Larry's right; I wasn't claiming that "my doing the judging" is
>necessarily hypercorrect. It's fine in, e.g., "it's not my doing the
>judging that's the problem." The prescription here is the use of the
>possessive before gerunds. Does anyone follow this rule naturally
>anymore or is it one acquired only from the kinds of English
>teachers who would title a course on sentence diagramming
>"Constructing Thought"? Whenever I mention the rule to my students,
>I'm met with blanker faces than usual, and none of them prefers,
>even in formal contexts, something like "I appreciate your helping
>me out" to "you helping me out."

I wrote my previous before reading this.  Yes I follow this rule --
possessives before gerunds.  I probably learned it at the knee of my
mother, the high-school English teacher, but from her speech rather
than her stating a rule.  [Oops- possessive again -- but
indistinguishable from the objective/objected pronoun.  Too bad I
didn't learn it from my father.]  But my mother, who probably
diagrammed sentences in her classes, would never have called it
"Constructing Thought".  (I suppose she might have called it
"deconstructing sentences" -- no, not even that.)


The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list