Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

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."

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

Sean2 Feb-20-2005

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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."

JB1 Feb-20-2005

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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.

xuan1 Feb-20-2005

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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.

AnWulf Sep-18-2011

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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. :)

Sean2 Feb-20-2005

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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

xuan1 Feb-20-2005

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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.

slemmet1 Feb-20-2005

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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

xuan1 Feb-20-2005

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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.

slemmet1 Feb-20-2005

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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. :)

xuan1 Feb-21-2005

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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 -

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".

Warsaw Will Nov-30-2012

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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.

xuan1 Feb-20-2005

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

Without MY BEING warned

L1 Jul-11-2012

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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?

Kevin2 Sep-17-2011

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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

François de Perse Nov-29-2012

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From what I can tell, the phrase "being warned" is not the same as a stand-alone gerund, such as cooking, studying, or running. For example, I could write, "Someone criticized my cooking" and stop right there, but it would be strange to write, "Can my car be repossessed without my being?" So I think we're dealing with a constructed participle and not a true gerund, so that "being warned" is the complete verb. To go back to the cooking, if I added our current phrase and changed the sentence, it would be something like "I don't like my cooking being criticized." It just seems like any verbal construction with "being" in front of another verb (being called, being harassed, being spoken to, etc.) is going to call for a different approach. To that end, I could write, "Can the group leave without me being called?" or "Can I take a trip to the island without my being vaccinated?" The difference is in the emphasis on the personal pronoun as an object (they should call me) or the information as a whole after the preposition (I can't leave without my vaccination).

Strand Oct-23-2019

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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?

Jasper Nov-29-2012

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I understand what you say, although I still feel "without me being" sounds fine. But what happens with this?
"without one being warned"

That seems to be correct. Shouldn't it be "without one's being warned", like in "without one's permission"?

What about these?
1a) You can drive with me being your navigator.
1b) You can drive without me being your navigator.
2a) You can drive with my being your navigator.
2b) You can drive without my being your navigator.

I again feel both 1 are correct and 2 sound weird. Thanks!

AndrewL Dec-16-2016

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Inappropriate use of the non-possessive noun in a gerund sentence. (A gerund is a verbal--a word that is formed from a verb and retains certain characteristics of a verb (e.g., tenses, the ability to take an object) but no longer functions as that part of speech. A gerund always functions as a noun. It is formed by adding "ing" to the verb.)
Because a gerund functions as any other noun does, we must use the possessive case of nouns that modify it. We would write, for example, "My sister’s singing always pleases my father." In this sentence, "singing" is the gerund and "sister’s" is the possessive noun modifying it.
example " being nervous vs. my being nervous"

wimada Jun-10-2018

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