Author Topic: Is this an error?  (Read 3061 times)

Lin

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Is this an error?
« on: January 16, 2006, 06:02:27 AM »
I found this line in a novel of a top selling novelist and wondered if it was an error.

'I don't suggest we forego this altogether because I don't want to be responsbile for my father's having a stroke'

Spot the error? 

I can only suggest that because it was a quote, it was the way this person spoke, but to be honest I can't see any reason to use the possessive form of father?   Shouldn't it be 'responsible for my father having a stroke?' 

Any comments?
 Lin

« Last Edit: January 16, 2006, 12:31:59 PM by Lin »

Jayel

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Re: Is this an error?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2006, 12:37:40 PM »
If it is part of the dialogue I would not consider it an error, but a style choice for character speech.  It may also be colloquial - depending on setting.  I wouldn't think it is something commonly used.

Offline Nick

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Re: Is this an error?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2006, 12:57:38 PM »
It's commoner than you might think, actually. I did a quick search on Google ("father's having"), and found examples of this construction in Jane Austen and Tolstoy, among others.

I think it's basically a genitive (possessive) construction, but perhaps today it would be regarded as a bit old-fashioned. In most cases, I imagine that a straightforward noun could be substituted.

Incidentally, isn't there another error? Instead of forego, shouldn't it be forgo?

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Lin

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Re: Is this an error?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2006, 01:08:19 PM »
My dictionary says 'forego'.   Anyway thanks for the comments its good to clarify grammar on this page.   

Lin

Offline orchid15

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Re: Is this an error?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2006, 01:14:02 PM »
Just naother idea on Father's having a stroke--  maybe it started as father is having, and changed to father's having,  and eventually lost ots present tensse connection and went into colloquial speech that way.

Juat a thought-  since it is a phrase that is commonly used, we don't need to understand all its roots, but it is fun to think about.

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Offline Nick

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Re: Is this an error?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2006, 02:02:57 PM »
My dictionary says 'forego'.   Anyway thanks for the comments its good to clarify grammar on this page.   

Lin

There are actually two different words. "Forego" means go before (as in 'a foregone conclusion'). "Forgo" means to do without. Though possibly nowadays this distinction is being eroded.

Nick
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Offline Jennifer

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Re: Is this an error?
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2006, 08:00:16 PM »
>'I don't suggest we forego this altogether because I don't want to be responsbile for my father's having a stroke'


I think in this example, "having" is being used as a gerund. It's the object of the sentence. If you use a simpler example, you can see the logic:

'They do not appreciate my singing.'

Leave out 'my' in our sentence for a moment, and the apostrophe definitely belongs:

'I don't suggest we forego this altogether because I don't want to be responsbile for (my) father's having a stroke.'

Gotta love gerunds!

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Offline Nick

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Re: Is this an error?
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2006, 03:42:15 AM »
Hi Jennifer

I kind of agree with you, but I still think this construction is optional and perhaps a little old-fashioned. In both of your examples, you could still replace the possessive with a simple pronoun.

They do not appreciate me singing.

I don't suggest we forgo this altogether because I don't want to be responsible for father having a stroke.

Actually, I think in the first example the meaning is subtly altered. In "They do not appreciate my singing" the emphasis is on the quality of the person's singing (perhaps they sound like one of my cats). In "They do not appreciate me singing", the implication is that there is nothing much wrong with the singer's voice but the context is wrong (e.g. it is in a library).

Gerunds...grammar...I love them all  :)

Nick
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Lin

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Re: Is this an error?
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2006, 03:58:11 AM »
Well I think its all about the fact that she didn't want to have the responsibility of the stroke that her father might have.  Anyway it made me think.

Lin