Friday, 23 December 2011

Possessive gerund

Mr. Charest, appealing to nationalist sentiment, has often been unhappy with Prime Minister Harper's government, but he hasn't called into question Quebec remaining in Canada (Globe and Mail, December 23, 2011)


I remember Inspector Morse's once deducing from the use of a possessive gerund in a note that the suspect was an educated person. If Morse had read today's article from the Globe, he would have picked up the error, a result of the similarity and confusion between the participle and the gerund, both of which end in "ing".

The participle is a verbal adjective; the gerund, a verbal noun.

Mother liked to hear me doing my homework.

Here, "doing" is a participle, an adjective, modifying "me".

Mother was disappointed at my failing the exam.

Here "failing" is a gerund, a noun, modified by "my".

The question always to ask is, is Mother disappointed at me or the failing of the exam. If the latter, then whose failing the exam? My failing the exam.

Or in the case of our example, is Mr. Charest calling into question Quebec or its remaining in Canada? Whose remaining in Canada? Quebec's.

So the passage should read:

Mr. Charest, appealing to nationalist sentiment, has often been unhappy with Prime Minister Harper's government, but he hasn't called into question Quebec's remaining in Canada.


Update


From the Globe editorial on July 18, 2012
The donor deal, Carleton announced, "did not fully reflect [the university's] policies" with respect to budget management and staff selection - a reference to it allowing the foundation to effectively name three of the program's powerful steering committee.


Again, the reference it not to "it", i.e., the university, but to "allowing the foundation to effectively name three of the program's powerful steering committee".


So the paragraph should read:


The donor deal, Carleton announced, "did not fully reflect [the university's] policies" with respect to budget management and staff selection - a reference to its allowing the foundation to effectively name three of the program's powerful steering committee.

No comments:

Post a comment