subject object verb

navi

Banned
armenian
Let's say we have watched a film in which there's a scene where a dog kills a cat.
Can I say:
1-I didn't like the dog's killing the cat.
2-I didn't like the cat's being killed.
3-I didn't like the dog's killing. ('dog' would be the subject of the verb and the object would be implicit)
4-I didn't like the cat's killing. ('cat' would be the object of the verb)
 
  • AmethystSW

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I didn't like the dog's killing of the cat.
    I didn't like the cat's being killed. (fine as is, I think but I'm not sure)
    I didn't like the cats being killed.
    I didn't like the dog's killings.
    I didn't like the killing of the cats.
     

    dwipper

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    1-This works in writing, but if spoken, it would probably be interpreetted as "the dogs killing the cat." To be clear, you might say "the dog's killing of the cat."

    2-Yes, but passive voice here sounds awkward.

    3-Like 1, this is fine in writing, but spoken it would sound like "the dogs killing."

    4-Same as 3 and 1, but I see no problem with using the object by itself.
     

    ed800uk

    Member
    UK English
    This is a very good question!

    I think that all four of your examples are technically good. But as you have noticed, #3 and #4 suffer from serious ambiguity.

    I'm not certain but I think this use of "killing" is called a "verbal noun" (or maybe a "gerund") and all I can say is that experienced speakers and writers will always try to rephrase the sentence to avoid this common problem, as the other answers propose.

    If any real experts are out there, please contribute!
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I don't like "the dog's killing" or "the cat's killing." They do not mean anything to me. I am certain I would always mention both the dog and the cat in this context, no matter how I chose to word the sentence.

    Otherwise, I'd say "the dog's murderous act" or "the cat's death," to avoid ambiguity.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    ed800uk said:
    But how about:

    "I didn't like the dog's barking."
    Yes, that's fine, of course. :) I was talking about this particular sentence ("I didn't like the dog's killing.").
     

    ed800uk

    Member
    UK English
    Yes, I agree entirely. The interesting aspect of this is how to explain (even to myself!) how it is the combination of semantics and syntax that make the poster's question so interesting. I suspect that a lot of us might use these ambiguous constructions, without noticing the problem, and so pass a totally false meaning to a listener.

    I wonder if this always happens with a gerund -- it is a gerund, I looked it up -- which is derived from a transitive verb?
     

    dwipper

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    ed800uk said:
    I wonder if this always happens with a gerund which is derived from a transitive verb?
    This is the case whenever you derive a gerund from transitive verb. The problem is if you want to specify both the subject and/or direct object, they are both expressed genetivelly (or possessively), thus the confusion. There is no ambiguity for an indirect object, however, since it is still expressed datively to the gerund.
     
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