Submitted by slemmet on February 19, 2005

my being vs me being

I have never understood why people say stuff like “Can my car be repossessed _without my being warned_?”. In my ears it should be “without me being warned”. Heck I would even prefer “without I being warned”. The only explanation I can come up, given that “my” is possessive, is that “being” is a noun which refers to you as a mortal being. But that doesn’t make much sense in the sentence since “being” is used as the verb. For it to work it would have to be “without my being getting warned”, or “without my being being warned”.

Am I right that this is just badly evolved english (although seemingly legitimate today) or am I missing something here ?

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It looks like you are missing something. It is completely incorrect to say "without me being warned." Instead, we use "my" in the possessive sense because "being" is being used as a gerund (a special kind of noun that is derived from a verb).

Some perhaps easier examples to understand:

"I watched his acting."
"I heard their singing."
"He praised my playing."
etc.

It would be wrong to say, "I watched he acting," or "I heard they singing."

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I completely agree and would like to add that "being warned" is a gerund phrase, which is perhaps one reason why it sounds awkward. "Being" by itself does not make sense, since "be" must link to something. Naturally, "being warned" is referring to a state of being and not to anyone's physical existence.

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Although more enlightened I am still a bit confused. Sean aren't your examples wrong? I mean wouldn't the equivalent to "ME being" be "I watched HIM acting" and "I heard THEM singing". And from what I have been told now I would guess that is incorrect english because of the -ing making the verb a gerund; however this would be correct english: "I watched him act/heard them sing" and "They watched me act". Right?

And another related question: Is "without me being" being used anywhere by native english speakers, or is it just me and other non-natives that would get the idea to use it? I mean I hear "we was/they was" being used in ebonics and maybe other slang as well. That sounds completely wrong in my ears, although from what I gather that was actually correct english some hundreds or so years ago. So among the general english speaking crowd, would "me being warned" be perceived as equally, better, or even worse english than "they was". If you say equally or worse, I seriously have to consider changing my habits, although it hurts.

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There is a difference in meaning between "I heard their singing" and "I heard them singing."

"What did you hear?"
"I heard their singing."

"Who was singing?"
"I heard them singing."

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Slemmet, you're right. My examples at the bottom weren't applicable to "without me being." Despite my mistake, however, I'm glad that you still were able to understand my explanation. While the gerunduial phrase is treated as a noun and should be preceded by a possessive noun/pronoun, "I watched him act" is indeed proper English.

To answer your other question, "me being" and its equivalents are commonly used by native English speakers. It does not sound nearly as bad as "they was" or any other such blatant mistake, although it does make me involuntarily twitch when I hear it. :)

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Hm. This is indeed a painful problem in the English grammar. But I'll attempt to simplify the explaination. :)

So let's reexamine this... "Can my car be repossessed _without my being warned_?" vs. "Can my car be repossessed _without me being warned_?"

So we've already established that "being warned" is a gerund phrase, so let's treat it like a math problem and substitute another nound for it.

"Can my car be repossessed _without MY PERMISSION_?" sounds right while "Can my car be repossessed_without ME PERMISSION_?" doesn't sound right, unless you're speaking a mix of English and Spanish. :)

Therefore, by substitution and use of intuition, we can prove that "without me being warned" is, indeed, incorrect.

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Ack. Sorry. In the last entry I made a typo. It should have been "...substitute another noun" instead of "...substitue another nound."

Excuse my lack of typing skills. :P

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Oh lord. upon rereading my entries I found that I spelled "explanation" wrong, too. Not only that, I left out a "t" in the second time I typed "substitute."

I should probably stop sabotaging this topic. I'm every grammar freak's nightmare. :D

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Xuan, you are not the problem. This place, not providing a way to edit your posts, are ;)

And while I see that I am wrong I am not sure I will care enough to learn to say "my being". I am way past school teaching and it is hard to learn old dogs to sit, so if native english speakers commonly use it, that might be good enough for me. I most often can't even be bothered to type "English" with a capital letter, although I know it should be done.
But I finally got an explanation to this "my being" thing, and that's nice.

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Haha...thanks, slemmet. I was worried there for a sec that I permanently marred the topic with my inaccuracies. :D

And I'm glad that we actually did something to help. :)

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It appears the schooling for this grammatical conundrum is sparse. President Obama says "The chances of me being reelected are far greater than the chances of me being elected in the first place". Is there an advisor for this or was the TelePrompTer on loan?

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Both forms are correct! This is NOT an either/or.

In Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, the byspel and explanation are:

Do you mind me asking a question?

Do you mind my asking a question?

In the first sentence, the queried objection is to 'me', as opposed to other members of the group, asking a question. In the second example, the issue is whether a question may be asked at all.

---

“Can my car be repossessed without me being warned?”

“Can my car be repossessed without my being warned?”

In the first sentence, the frain is to 'me', as opposed to other members of the group, being warned. In the second byspel, the issue is whether any person may be warned at all.

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umm I think that Without ME BEING warned is more physical existence than

Without MY BEING warned

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.......and drown her in tears for the last day or two of their being together;

....whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at there being any man
in the world would could.....

Northanger Abbey..Catherine and Mrs Morland

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What about "warned"? I have a hard time accepting "warned" as an object or predicate adjective of "being". Couldn't the prepositional phrase: "me/my being warned", constructed as an independent clause, become: "I was warned", which constitutes it as a sentence in the passive voice, i.e. "I was warned by them"? Making the word "me" more suitable?

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"She doesn't like me smoking in the house"
"She doesn't like my smoking in the house"
As AnWulf said both are correct, but I would say that the meaning is exactly the same. Use of the possessive seems to be mainly down to Fowler, who called the version with "me" a "fused participle", and condemned it. He said that "smoking" here is a gerund, and as a noun form should take the possessive "my". However Otto Jespersen, another great grammarian at the time, disagreed, and said that the "me" version was fine.

Most authorities allow the "me" version in object position. In the New Fowler's, RW Burchfield suggests that in modern usage the object forms and possessive forms are both used, but that the non-possessive form is now dominant, and that the possessive version is on the retreat.

The real problem, though, comes when it's in subject position:
"Me smoking in the house annoyed her"
"My smoking in the house annoyed her"
Those of use who usually use "me" in object position, might be more inclined to use "My" in subject position.

See: MWDEU - http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&a...

I think comparing this with verbs of perception like "see" and "hear" is a bit of a red herring, because the" -ing" form here is not a gerund, but a participle - "I saw him crossing the road" is really like "I saw him and he was crossing the road" - We would never use a possessive there. And we can also use a bare infinitive in this construction, implying we saw the completed action - "I saw him cross the road" - We couldn't do that with the other example "*She doesn't like me smoke"

@Jasper -there is nothing wrong with "being warned" - it's not an object or predicate of "being"; the two words form a passive gerund. So the same rules apply: "without my being warned" or "without me being warned"; take your pick. To me Slemmet's original sentence with the gerund (whether with "me" or "my", "Can my car be repossessed without my/me being warned ?" is rather neater than an alternative with full verb, "Can my car be repossessed even if I haven't been warned".

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