Their understanding (of) the lessons

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New Member
Hello all, I come across a sentence.

"I can picture myself reading this wonderful story to my children and grandchildren in our family room with a warm fire glowing and their understanding the lessons."

I don't understand why there is no preposition between 'understanding' and 'the lessons'.

Thank you.
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'Understanding' here is a verb with an object: 'understanding the lessons'. It's parallel to 'reading this story'. If we change the beginning of the sentence a bit, we can use 'my' parallel to 'their':

    The scene reminded you of my reading this story to my children and their understanding the lessons.

    With a gerund-participial verb like 'reading', 'understanding', if a pronoun is the subject it can be either accusative ('me', 'them') or genitive ('my', 'their'). Both choices are very common. So that sentence could equally well be:

    The scene reminded you of me reading this story to my children and them understanding the lessons.

    However, in the original sentence there is the pronoun 'I' as subject, so the next mention is 'myself', not 'me'/'my'. Likewise in my changed sentence, if I now use 'I' as subject:

    I was reminded of myself reading this story to my children and them/their understanding the lessons.

    You could say 'their understanding of the lessons', using 'understanding' as a noun, but that would be parallel to 'my reading of this story'. You couldn't use 'myself' there; you would need to say 'my own reading of this story'.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    There's a subtle difference if you add a preposition:

    "I can picture...
    their understanding the lessons." = see that ... they know/have learned the lesson


    "I can picture... their understanding of the lessons." = see the meaning that each takes individually from the story

    A: "My understanding of Einstein's Theory is that the speed of light is absolute."
    B: "Well my understanding of
    Einstein's Theory is that everything is relative."
    C: "My understanding Einstein's theory is extremely improbable, I know nothing of science."

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