the possibility of <them being used>

altmohammad00

New Member
persian
Hello
In the following sentence, what is the meaning of "them being used"? Is it a grammatical expression?
"In order to increase the possibility of them being used, I will try to clarify them."
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I would use "their" (essentially, the subject of the passive gerund "being used"), but informal usage accepts "them."
    You must explain, my dear KHS, how what I would call a possessive adjective (their) can be the 'subject' of anything. :)

    I am very old now and not in tune with modern grammatical nomenclature.
     

    altmohammad00

    New Member
    persian
    I would use "their" (essentially, the subject of the passive gerund "being used"), but informal usage accepts "them."
    Excuse me. I got a bit confused.
    As far as I found out, you say that the sentence must be:

    "In order to increase the possibility of their being used, I will try to clarify them."

    Is it true?

    Now I have a question. what is the grammar of this phrase: "being used" ?
    I did not saw such a phrase in the grammar before.
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hello, and welcome to the forum!

    “Their being used” is a gerund phrase.

    A gerund is the -ing form of a verb being used as a noun, which in the bigger context can function as a subject, object or complement in its sentence. So the essential element here is the gerund “being”.

    Since “being” comes from “to be” it can be followed by adjectives such as “used” or any other adjective. “Their” simply pins down which or what is possibly going to be used. It is a possessive pronoun, and sometimes we used them with gerunds for clarity.

    How do you feel about going to France? (In this case, that it is “you” going to France is assumed)
    How do you feel about my going to France? (In this case, the question specifies that the person going to France is the speaker).

    Back to your example, to simplify:

    the possibility of dancing
    the possibility of our dancing
    the possibility of being successful
    the possibility of her being successful
    the possibility of my getting in
    the possibility of their having a break-in

    etc. These are all correctly formed phrases.

    Hope it helps.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It might be just worth adding to your excellent post, Pachanga, that some people prefer the less-easily-explained object pronoun to the possessive adjective in the construction, as in the OP:

    "In order to increase the possibility of them being used, I will try to clarify them." - object pronoun
    "In order to increase the possibility of their being used, I will try to clarify them." - possessive adjective

    Pernickety people prefer the second and deride the first, which has become the more common form in British English now, I suspect.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Excuse me. I got a bit confused.
    As far as I found out, you say that the sentence must be:

    "In order to increase the possibility of their being used, I will try to clarify them."

    Is it true?

    Now I have a question. what is the grammar of this phrase: "being used" ?
    I did not saw such a phrase in the grammar before.
    Finite verbs (i.e., verbs conjugated for grammatical person) take subject pronouns:
    they are used :tick:
    them are used
    ???
    their are used ???

    Non-finite verbs (i.e., verbs that are not conjugated, and therefore don't change form, regardless of grammatical person) take as subject either object pronouns or possessive adjective/determiners:
    them being used :tick:
    their being used :tick:


    that's how English syntax works things out; beyond that, there's preference, and traditional grammar. Traditional grammar says that the subject should be "their;" Why? Well, it's argued that the -ing verb (or "gerund") is functioning as a noun, and therefore you pair the "gerund" with a determiner (as you would with any other noun). However, it's not the "gerund" being that's functioning as "noun;" it's the entire structure them/their being used that functions as "noun" (object of the preposition "of"). As far as syntax is concerned, what matters is that you don't use a subject pronoun; other than that, both "them" and "their" are correct.

    But context makes a difference. Sense verbs seem to be particularly sensitive to perspective. I saw them dancing focuses more on the people involved; I saw their dancing shifts the focus to the activity. In your particular example, perhaps that's what's going on; it could be that "them' in In order to increase the possibility of them being used places the attention on the "people" involved. Maybe.
     

    altmohammad00

    New Member
    persian
    Hello, and welcome to the forum!

    “Their being used” is a gerund phrase.

    A gerund is the -ing form of a verb being used as a noun, which in the bigger context can function as a subject, object or complement in its sentence. So the essential element here is the gerund “being”.

    Since “being” comes from “to be” it can be followed by adjectives such as “used” or any other adjective. “Their” simply pins down which or what is possibly going to be used. It is a possessive pronoun, and sometimes we used them with gerunds for clarity.

    How do you feel about going to France? (In this case, that it is “you” going to France is assumed)
    How do you feel about my going to France? (In this case, the question specifies that the person going to France is the speaker).

    Back to your example, to simplify:

    the possibility of dancing
    the possibility of our dancing
    the possibility of being successful
    the possibility of her being successful
    the possibility of my getting in
    the possibility of their having a break-in

    etc. These are all correctly formed phrases.

    Hope it helps.
    I truly appreciate your complete explanation.
     

    altmohammad00

    New Member
    persian
    Finite verbs (i.e., verbs conjugated for grammatical person) take subject pronouns:
    they are used :tick:
    them are used
    ???
    their are used ???

    Non-finite verbs (i.e., verbs that are not conjugated, and therefore don't change form, regardless of grammatical person) take as subject either object pronouns or possessive adjective/determiners:
    them being used :tick:
    their being used :tick:


    that's how English syntax works things out; beyond that, there's preference, and traditional grammar. Traditional grammar says that the subject should be "their;" Why? Well, it's argued that the -ing verb (or "gerund") is functioning as a noun, and therefore you pair the "gerund" with a determiner (as you would with any other noun). However, it's not the "gerund" being that's functioning as "noun;" it's the entire structure them/their being used that functions as "noun" (object of the preposition "of"). As far as syntax is concerned, what matters is that you don't use a subject pronoun; other than that, both "them" and "their" are correct.

    But context makes a difference. Sense verbs seem to be particularly sensitive to perspective. I saw them dancing focuses more on the people involved; I saw their dancing shifts the focus to the activity. In your particular example, perhaps that's what's going on; it could be that "them' in In order to increase the possibility of them being used places the attention on the "people" involved. Maybe.
    Thank you very much for the helpful explanation.
     
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