"me [gerund]" or "my [gerund]" at the beginning of sentences?



A.1 The lions reacted to my singing.

A.2 The lions reacted to me singing.

B.1 My singing alarmed the lions.

B.2 Me singing alarmed the lions.

As far as I know, both A.1 and A.2 are grammatical: "me" and "my" are interchangeable, although there is a little difference in meaning.

Can we say the same refering to B.1 and B.2? Why does B.2 seem ungrammatical? If it is, what grammatical rule, if any, impedes using "me" in B.2?


Posted 2013-02-03T13:32:19.623




My singing is a noun, and will always be grammatical; it's what the lions reacted to in A1, and it's the subject of the sentence in B1.

In A2, the lions reacted to me, who was singing. Singing here is effectively an adjective describing me. Me is the correct form in this position in the sentence.

In B2, the subject of the sentence is *Me. That's not right; it should be I: "I, singing, alarmed the lions". It's really awkward; if you do need that sort of construction it would be better phrased as "Singing, I alarmed the lions" or "I alarmed the lions with my singing."

As Barry has said, me is sometimes heard as a dialectal replacement for my ("I'll get me coat"), in which case it turns B2 into B1. If this is the case, me is unstressed and pronounced /mɪ/ rather than /mi:/.

Andrew Leach

Posted 2013-02-03T13:32:19.623

Reputation: 1 495

This answer isn't correct :( The Original Poster asked about gerunds. If singing is a gerund then (1) doesn't a noun. It could easily involve a clause here. The same is true for the other three sentences too. Also my singing isn't a noun, although admittedly it does have one in it. – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-09-04T13:22:40.833

In A2 it's extremely doubtful that singing is being used as a modifier of me. This would definitely seem to be a clause. In B2 the subject of the sentence is not me, but me singing. B2 is completely grammatical if singing is a gerund. There's nothing wrong with the sentence at all (the observation about there being a dialectical reading's accurate but by the by). – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-09-04T13:32:32.583

@Araucaria I suggest you write an answer, then. – Andrew Leach – 2015-09-04T13:35:17.203

The reason I'm commenting Andrew is because other posts are getting closed and linked to this. Barrie's comment above is quite correct. I don't think I'm going to get enough time to write a good answer for this for learners right now. It would have to be very long to cover the necessary ground. Also it's quite difficult to answer, because you'd need to make sure you were being very accurate in order to not accidentally mislead learners. – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-09-04T13:44:19.680

3I wonder about this. Can't it be argued that the subject of the sentence is not the speaker, but the whole of the non-finite clause me singing? After all, wouldn’t we say ‘Me singing is a very different thing from me dancing’? – Barrie England – 2013-02-03T14:29:36.413

@BarrieEngland We might say that, but it's a colloquial shorthand, I think. Spoken grammar is an odd beast! – Andrew Leach – 2013-02-03T14:36:02.747


It isn't advisable, because some might think you’re using me instead of my as a determiner. That may be possible in some dialects, but it isn’t in Standard English.

Barrie England

Posted 2013-02-03T13:32:19.623

Reputation: 7 553

1+1 It suggests the Stage Irishman or 'Walking Gentleman'. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-02-03T13:42:55.257