1. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    When should possessive determiner (pronoun) be used instead of object pronouns?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Komposten, Oct 22, 2012.

    I love reading books, and especially those written in English (even though I'm from Sweden).
    However, I came across something that I first found to be rather strange in one of my many books. As time passed I've noticed this being used more and more in the books I read (especially much in older ones, such as those written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

    What I came across looked like this: "They dine here tonight, and there is some talk of our going to them next week." (Quoted from The Hound of the Baskervilles).

    My question is simple enough:
    Is this usage of possessive determiners proper English, formal English, older English, or just a colloquialism?

    Thanks is advance
    /Hjelm
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    jargon aside, are you referring to the use of 'our' vs 'us' or 'we'?

    all i can tell you without looking it up in grammar books, is that it's 'common english' and that as an editor, i would consider it 'correct'...
     
  3. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm referring to the use of 'my' instead of me, 'our' instead of 'us', 'your' instead of 'you', etc.

    Edit: Another example: "My mother does not like my throwing the clothes on the floor" vs. "My mother does not like me throwing the clothes on the floor"
     
  4. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you say "There is some talk of ..." then the reader expects a noun phrase to follow. "Our going" is a noun phrase, so grammatically it works just fine. But using "going" as a noun isn't as easy on the listener as using it as a verb would be, so speakers tend to use it as a verb: "us going". The listener then has to turn the verb phrase into a noun phrase somehow, so they mentally fill it in to something like "[the event of] us going". Ellipsis is grammatically legitimate, so that is still good grammar.

    As for the choice between them, I suppose the "our going" form might be seen as old fashioned, or more technical, or more formal -- any or all of those. At the time Conan Doyle was writing it would have been the sort of linguistic precision that marked a well-educated person. It no longer does that, at least not as clearly.
     
  5. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    So when I am writing, could I use either of these two alteratives when writing from the perspective of the narrator (i.e. outside dialogues)?
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I personally wouldn't use it if you're unsure, or try it out a few times and post it on here and see if it's used correctly. I'm afraid I know nothing about grammar (I can use it, but can't explain it sorry) so can't really tell you why it is "our going to the shop" or sometimes "us going to the shop" for example. The only way I've thought about it is like, "our action" - except this action is expanded to include the details of what this action is, hence you use the possessive.... ok I haven't explained it very well :eek:

    I think "our going" is old-fashioned, but definitely it's still used in writing. As for "us going" that sounds more colloquial to me.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd say use whichever sounds best to you...
     
  8. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Just a thought but is that a quote of speech within the hound of the Baskervilles? Weren't most of the cast of that book upper class? And with the age of the setting and the book they probably would have spoken in such a manner, almost in the third person bit like the queen saying "One does like the cake" (well she might). Its been a while since i read it lol
     
  9. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm... You are spot on, SuperVenom, as it is, it was a quote of speech from no one but Sir Henry Baskerville himself. And I think you could count many of the characters in among the upper class.
     

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