A Poorly Timed Presidential Grammatical Error

From the President’s State of the Union Address:

The word learning, as used in this sentence, is a gerund. Possessive forms of pronouns are used immediately before gerunds. The President should have used the possessive pronoun their instead of them:

“This nation will not go back to the days of simply shuffling children along from grade to grade without their learning the basics.”

Irregardless, he done real good. :rolleyes:

Let’s see him blame this one on the Brits.

According to the American Heritage Book of English Usage (and every English teacher I ever had) both forms are correct. So for once, Bush manages to get it right.



Agreed. Few people take that rule seriously these days, on either side of the Atlantic. The use regular pronouns with gerunds is well established, and I daresay the far more common construction.

Got to admit, using “their” instead of “them” in that sentence just sounds odd.

According to Harbrace, which has been and continues to be the standard in American universities and for most teachers of English:

The only exceptions noted are with nouns, not adjectives.

Even the link provided by percypercy shows problems only with certain possessive nouns, not pronouns, and describes the non-use of the possessive as “idiomatic.”

Strunk and White agree:

They show no exceptions involving possessive pronouns and gerunds.

I suspect that you are mistaken about your English teachers. Most of my colleagues were well-schooled in Harbrace.

Nitpick here, but irregardless is not a word.

I hate to nitpick here, but you done been whooshed.

whoosh! woosh, I say (to make this at least ten letters)!

[reverse nitpick] Then how come irregardless rates a listing in Webster’s Collegiate (10th ed.)? [/reverse nitpick]

(they do call it “nonstandard”)

It just goes to show you that if enough people use a word that doesn’t exist, it will soon pop up in the dictionary…

As per my previous post, I’d also like to point out that all the people claiming that ain’t ain’t a word… Well, I guess they were wrong…

Even if Bush and/or his writers knew the possessive of the gerund is grammatically preferred, I suspect they used the “less correct” version because it would “sound right” to their target audience. Sort of the same way he persists in saying “nukular,” even though you know lots of people have mentioned it to him, at least in part because it helps his intended demographic to perceive him as being jus’-plain-folks instead of the corporate wolf in down-home sheep’s clothing that he is.

Yes, I realize my link defined the use as idiomatic. I didn’t really think I needed to go into that much detail on the point, but if you insist… This generally means that the construction should not be used in the most formal writing, but it is proper in casual writing or, as Bush used it, in a speech.

You said:

Quite often a correct usage sounds odd. For example, the expression ‘between you and me’ is correct grammar, whereas ‘between you and I’ (though sounding better) is incorrect.

And Zoe, I am shocked that the SDMB folks missed one of your grammatical “errors”. Yes your use of irregardless was properly chastised but your stating “he done real good” was totally overlooked. You should have said “he done really good”. LOL

And a serious Whoosh Warning to anyone that’s ready to pounce on that last paragraph.

Ice Wolf, you come go on up to the head of the class. :smiley:

percypercy, for the life of me, I cannot think of a more formal occasion than a Presidential Address to Congress. It’s not as if he were out stumping or speaking off-the-cuff.

I fear you are right. Too bad that he had to dummy down to Congress. :wink:

Woe is I.

That’s something I’m hearing more of from professional speakers that bugs me. More and more newscasters and other speakers are saying things like “he gave the award to Bill and I,” instead of “Bill and me.” You don’t say, “he gave the award to I,” so adding Bill to the sentence doesn’t change things. I guess they are trying to keep from the error of phrases like, “Bill and me went to the store,” so they use “I” on every occasion.

Sanguine, the appearance of a word in the dictionary doesn’t mean it’s a ‘real word’ or that it’s correct grammar. “Irregardless” is self-contradictory and nonsensical. A dictionary isn’t an arbiter of words, it’s a guide to words that are commonly used, and that’s why it’s in there: because a large number of people make the same stupid mistake.

Which is exactly how a language evolves. Lots of “fake” words have been coined into the English language. Common use makes them “real”, grammar nazis and POTUSAs notwithstanding.
-Horseflesh, what am a good speaker of da English language.
P.S. :confused: Where did Sanguine post in this thread?

Just reviving this thread to yield the point. After a few days and an exchange of emails with one now cranky former English teacher(and friend), I’m willing to admit that’s a gerund phrase. I may be forced back into 8th grade grammar class now. I hope Bushie’s happy.