I want you to imagine you’re living with someone called Kenny, and generally, you like him. But one thing you don’t like is when he sings in the shower.
When describing your relationship to Kenny, should I say
Even though Kenny was a great roommate, John hated his singing in the shower.
Even as Kenny was a great roommate, John hated him singing in the shower?
It depends on what you’re trying to say.
If you hate it because it wakes you up, you hate HIM singing. If you hate it because he’s a bad singer, you hate HIS singing.
Him vs His
With most of the sentences we say, there is going to be a subject and an object. Subjects act and objects are acted upon.
If we take “The cat sat on the mat”. Cat is the subject as he is the one sitting. Mat is the object as it is what’s being sat on.
If the male is the object, you would say “Him”. If you were to say “I hate him singing”, you are the subject, hate is a verb, and “him singing” is what you’re hating.
But if the male is the subject, you should be saying “His”. If you hate “his singing”, then singing is the object, and the subject (or owner of the object) is Kenny.
Pronouns are an interesting part of the English language. We use them at the start of sentences to show the reader or listener the gender of the person we’re talking about.
If you’re talking about a man, you say “He, him, or his”. If it’s a lady “She or her”. And if it’s a group of people, we would say “They or them”.
Another circumstance you can use “Them” is when talking about a single person of unknown gender. For example, let’s say you know John, but you don’t know Kenny, so Kenny could be a guy or a girl.
If this is the case, you can say “Even though Kenny was a great roommate, John hated them singing in the shower”.
Do we need pronouns?
I began to question pronouns, or rather the he/she ones when I went to Madagascar. There I learnt that in their native language, they don’t have a word for “he” nor do they have a word for “she”.
Instead, they would just say “izy”, which meant he/she.
And when you think about it, that makes so much sense. If I were to say “he went to the shops”, why does it matter whether the person going to shops was a male or female, I just care that they remembered my smarties!
It’s worse in France
Even though English does use pronouns where we might not need to, we’re nowhere near as bad as the French.
I can remember learning French at school, and every new word would be accompanied by either Le, La, or Les. And this wasn’t just when talking about people, you would say these words when talking about inanimate objects.
So if you learn French, you need to learn the words, the rules, and which objects are which gender.
Let’s say that John hated HIS singing in the shower. There are two possible things this could be implying.
The first one is the one introduced at the start. Kenny is a lousy singer. His singing voice is like nails on a chalkboard.
The option would be that the issue isn’t Kenny but the shower. For some reason, even though he has a great singing voice, the acoustics in your bathroom doesn’t do him any favours.
You don’t have a problem with his voice in any other room in your house.
If however, John hates HIM singing in the shower, that will have some different implications. There are two which are most likely.
If John hates being woken up early, no matter how lovely the singing is, then he would hate HIM singing. This is not going to change if Ed Sheeran became his roommate.
Secondly, it could also be suggesting when Kenny sings in the shower, he tends to take longer. Instead of washing up, and getting out, he’s focused on pretending to be a rock star. Maybe John really needs the toilet but can’t go while Kenny’s in there.
Both of these sentences are written in the same tense. No matter whether John hated HIS singing or HIM singing, his hating was done in the past.
But within the past tense, there are two different categories—past simple and past continuous.
In both sentences, we’re talking about a general truth about the past. Both describe something which has now come to an end. Therefore, it would be correct to say that both “John hated him singing” and “John hated his singing” are written in the past simple.
Knowing what the different forms of past tense are can help you when speaking or writing.
There are, of course, plenty of other ways that you could tell people about John’s dislike towards Kenny’s singing.
- John hated when he sang in the shower
- John hated his singing, which he always did in the shower
- The shower was terrible for his singing
- His singing woke John up
- When he sang in the shower, John would get annoyed at having to wait.
There are, of course, plenty of other ways to express this. These were just the ones off the top of my head.
Kenny was a great roommate, but his singing in the shower? Quite the opposite!
And whether John hated HIS singing or HIM singing is going to depend on what he disliked about it. Was Kenny a bad singer? Or would he feel the same way if Frank Sinatra had been his roommate?
I hope that after reading this article, you now have a better understanding of how the English language works, and you have begun to question why we need to have pronouns. I also hope that you have a better understanding of the fact that not all past tense sentences are written in the same tense.
But most of all, I hope Kenny is now living on his own, so he can sing in the shower as much as he likes, and John can get some peace!