Grammar Tips & Articles »

Fused Participle - Solutions

This article is about Fused Participle - Solutions — enjoy your reading!

3:54 min read
  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
Font size:

Whenever you use a noun or pronoun followed by an ‑ing verb, you must figure out whether the issue of the fused participle even arises. Figure out what noun function you need in your sentence. Is it a direct object? An object of a preposition? A subject?

Three Decisions

Focus on the noun or pronoun. Then you must make one of three decisions about the use of the possessive:

1. Does the noun or pronoun serve that noun function and convey your meaning, and does the ‑ing verb therefore just modify the noun or pronoun? If so, do not use the possessive.

2. Does the ‑ing verb serve the noun role? If so, use the possessive.

3. Does the combination of the noun (or pronoun) and ‑ing verb state your meaning? If so, use the fused participle (don’t use the possessive form).

Here are the three situations, along with their solutions:

Decision 1

1. Noun or Pronoun Serves the Noun Role (Direct Object) If so, don’t make the noun or pronoun possessive:

She saw the woman running down the street.

Here she saw the woman, not the running. The ‑ing verb running is clearly adjectival and modifies woman.

Does everyone see that this is not a fused participle? We’re not using the combination woman running. We’re using woman as the direct object and running down the street as an adjective modifying woman.

Decision 2

2. The ‑ing Verb Serves the Noun Role (Direct Object)

If so, make the noun or pronoun possessive:

They hated OUR digging up the yard.

Here they hated the digging, so we use the possessive case our to force the ‑ing verb to serve the role of the noun. We hope they didn’t hate us. Hence, we avoid using the objective case us, which would produce this:

They hated US digging up the yard.

Decision 3

3. Noun Combo Conveys Meaning and Serves Noun Role (Object of Preposition)

If so, don’t make the noun or pronoun possessive. Let the fused participle stay:

Many will question the wisdom of government departments straying into competitive commercial areas. Quoted in New Fowler, p. 610.

Here the Noun Combo government departments straying is what many are questioning the wisdom of. The structure—the fused participle—acts as the object of the preposition of.

Chart Showing Possibilities

From the experts, we can glean some categories of situations where one structure (possessive noun or pronoun) or the other (nonpossessive noun or pronoun) tends to dominate. Mr. Burchfield, the editor of New Fowler, has identified various examples of current practice. He notes, however, that the choice is often a personal one. I would note, however, that the choice should primarily depend on grammatical analysis, which will reveal your meaning.

Fused Participle - Solutions

Word Before -ing Verb Use Possessive? Use Non- possessive? Example
proper name Yes -ing verb = noun He wondered if he should be angry about Nancy’s having failed to call him on time.
personal noun (e.g., brother, baby, son) Yes -ing verb = noun He did not like his son’s driving with beer in the car.
nonpersonal noun (e.g. house, tree) Yes fused participle They enjoyed talking about the house being haunted.
plural nonpersonal noun Yes fused participle They expressed no opinion about the jewels losing their value.
personal pronouns (practice is evenly divided, but analyze grammar and meaning) Yes fused participle I do not understand him making that mistake.
Yes -ing verb = noun We appreciate your standing in line to buy our tickets for us.
indefinite pronouns (e.g., something, everyone, anyone) Yes fused participle These facts are a symptom of something going wrong with the banking system.
Yes fused participle Is there a problem with everyone leaving now?
personal pronoun as first word in sentence Yes (always) -ing verb = noun My interrupting the class confused the professor. Not: Me interrupting the class. . . . Not: I interrupting the class. . .


This topic is not an easy one to discuss. But it is definitely worth discussing, for in America today, many people do not seem to know that a noun or pronoun in its possessive form is often necessary to enable them to say exactly what they want to say. If they aren’t careful, they might ending up smelling their moms frying chicken.

You need a fairly high degree of grammatical knowledge to get through this discussion. Your reading the Grammar eBook Understanding the Parts of Speech should equip you with the necessary concepts.

Hard Copy

You may download our entire discussion of the Parts of Speech. Simply download the Grammar eBook Understanding the Parts of Speech.


Previous: Fused Participle - Noun or Pronoun and ‑ing Phrase

Next: Verb Function 4 - Past-Participial Phrase, -ed Phrase

Rate this article:

Have a discussion about this article with the community:

1 Comment
  • Dawn Loewen
    Dawn Loewen
    This is a good explanation -- thank you. Re your example "I do not understand him making that mistake," I was taught that it would be "him" if the emphasis is on who made the mistake (him as opposed to someone else), and would be possessive "his" if the emphasis is on the mistake. 
    LikeReply6 years ago


Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography:


"Fused Participle - Solutions." STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 14 Jun 2024. <>.

Free, no signup required:

Add to Chrome

Check your text and writing for style, spelling and grammar problems everywhere on the web!

Free, no signup required:

Add to Firefox

Check your text and writing for style, spelling and grammar problems everywhere on the web!


Free Writing Tool:

Grammar Checker

Improve your grammar, vocabulary, and writing -- and it's FREE!


Are you a grammar master?

Choose the sentence with correct use of the present perfect continuous tense:
A He is living in this city since 2010.
B We have visited the museum last week.
C She has been studying for hours.
D I have played the piano yesterday.

Improve your writing now:

Download Grammar eBooks

It’s now more important than ever to develop a powerful writing style. After all, most communication takes place in reports, emails, and instant messages.