Omitting/dropping subject pronouns - I woke up early and felt sick

Fenix689

Member
Mexican Spanish
Hi there.

I konw that subject-dropping is used in colloquial speaking and writing, and it is not accepted in formal settings. However, I would like to know if there are any cases in which omitting subject pronouns can be considered correct other than commands (imperative mood).

For example, when joining two phrases together with the conjunction "and" or other:
"I woke up early in the morning and felt sick"
"I listened to the lecture and jot down some notes".​


I would really appreciate your help on this since after an hour of looking for any useful and enlightening information about this topic in the net, I couldn't find but a few forum threats that didn't helped me a lot. And if you could provide me any link or web page where I can find information about this, I would be more than grateful.
 
  • blasita

    Senior Member
    Spain. Left four years ago
    Hello.

    Yes, ellipsis is quite a broad topic. I'm afraid that I don't know any particularly good Internet site for this. I think you can find information about dropping subject pronouns in almost any grammar book; as to conjunctions:
    Ellipsis is not normally possible after other conjunctions besides and, but and or.
    She didn't know where she was when she woke up. (NOT ... *when woke up.) However, ellipsis of subject pronouns with forms of be is possible in some cases (e.g. if possible, when arriving). Practical English Usage - M. Swan.
    Hope this helps. Saludos.
     

    AdrienDeLaChicago

    Senior Member
    Hi there.


    "I listened to the lecture and jotted down some notes".​
    Just a small correction I wanted to point out with your English. You English is very good, by the way. :)

    You can use a preposition such as "while" in order to construct sentences to join two actions. For example:

    He was reading a book while sunbathing by the pool.

    We were snacking on fruit while we watched a movie.

    Blasita provided a very good point regarding the use of the ellipsis. I can't think of another way to say her example without using the same subject pronoun twice. In some examples that is simply how it is.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi, Fenix689.

    Your examples do not omit subject pronouns but combine two predicates into one using and. And is used to join two or more things of the same type: subjects, verbs, predicates, whole clauses (usually with a comma before and), etc.:

    My sister and I listened. [joining two subjects]
    We met and greeted one another. [joining two verbs]
    I listened and took notes. [joining two predicates]
    My sister listened, and I took notes. [joining two clauses]
     

    Fenix689

    Member
    Mexican Spanish
    Ellipsis! Thanks blasita! I wasn't sure if that term was also used in the English language, now I can look for information about it using its actual name.
    AdrienDeLaChicago thanks for the advice, "while" is a word I seldom use, I'm going to try use it more often.

    Thanks a lot Forero, that's what I wanted to know. Usually, I can easily notice when a subject pronoun was wrongly omitted, but in the case of the use of conjunctions, specially "and", I sometimes have some doubts. But your explanation has been rahter useful.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi there.

    I konw that subject-dropping is used in colloquial speaking and writing, and it is not accepted in formal settings. However, I would like to know if there are any cases in which omitting subject pronouns can be considered correct other than commands (imperative mood).

    For example, when joining two phrases together with the conjunction "and" or other:
    "I woke up early in the morning and felt sick"
    "I listened to the lecture and jot down some notes".​


    I would really appreciate your help on this since after an hour of looking for any useful and enlightening information about this topic in the net, I couldn't find but a few forum threats that didn't helped me a lot. And if you could provide me any link or web page where I can find information about this, I would be more than grateful.
    When it comes to subject dropping, it might help to think in terms of syntax and semantics.

    A basic rule of syntax is that finite (conjugated) verbs need subjects. In terms of syntax, the subject's natural position is to the left and immediately before the finite verb. (In some cases, the subject comes after the verb.) In "I woke up," the subject is the pronoun "I." We call "I" the syntactic (grammatical) subject because "I" occupies the natural syntactic position of "subject." In "felt sick," there is no syntactic/grammatical subject because there is no pronoun, noun or element that functions as subject immediately before the finite verb "felt." But the meaning of the sentence tells us that the person who "woke up" ("I") is the same person who "felt sick." Because the meaning of "I" extends throughout the sentence, the syntactic/grammatical subject of "felt sick" can be dropped.

    Another approach is to say that "I" isn't dropped in "felt sick;" rather, "I" simply moved to the front of the sentence, where it functions as the syntactic subject of "woke up" and the agent ("the doer") of "felt sick." "Subject" and "agent" are not the same thing. "Subject" is about syntax; "agent" is about meaning.

    That's the theory. In practical terms, without worrying about syntax, the bottom line is this: if the person who "woke up" is the same person who "felt sick," you don't need to mention the subject of "felt sick." It is understood (or "recovered" in syntax language) from context. This is perfectly acceptable in formal and informal writing.

    Adding the second pronoun affects coordination. "Coordination" is the connection of elements that have the same structure, as Forero said:
    (a) I woke up early and felt sick; (coordination of two verb phrases: "woke up" and "felt sick.")
    (b) I woke up early and I felt sick; (coordination of two clauses: "I woke up early" and "I felt sick.")
    Both (a) and (b) are equally valid. You might want to use (b) is you want to emphasize that it is "I" who "felt sick" (and not "someone else").

    Saludos
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    (a) I woke up early and felt sick; (coordination of two verb phrases: "woke up" and "felt sick.")
    (b) I woke up early and I felt sick; (coordination of two clauses: "I woke up early" and "I felt sick.")
    Both (a) and (b) are equally valid. You might want to use (b) is you want to emphasize that it is "I" who "felt sick" (and not "someone else").

    Saludos
    This does not make sense to me. Emphasizing I in (b) would be quite unnatural. Sentence (a) says I did two things; sentence (b) says I did one thing and I did another thing.

    A compound predicate does not represent ellipsis. I in (a) and in the original sentences is the subject of the whole compound predicate.

    Compare to a sentence with a compound subject: "He and I were there" does not have a verb elided. Though it does in a sense mean that he was there and I was there, "He and I" is the subject of "were": There is no was missing.

    Similarly "woke up early and felt sick" is the compound predicate for the subject "I" in (a) and there is no missing I to be explained.
     

    inib

    Senior Member
    British English
    I once heard the explanation that you don't have to repeat the subject if the conjunction is a co-ordinating one, instead of a subordinating one. Is that too simplistic? It certainly seems easy.
    I obviously know when it sounds right to omit/not to repeat the subject, and I've never been asked about an example where that theory didn't work. But then again, I've never thought about it in depth or been challenged with more complicated examples.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    This does not make sense to me. Emphasizing I in (b) would be quite unnatural. Sentence (a) says I did two things; sentence (b) says I did one thing and I did another thing.

    A compound predicate does not represent ellipsis. I in (a) and in the original sentences is the subject of the whole compound predicate.

    Compare to a sentence with a compound subject: "He and I were there" does not have a verb elided. Though it does in a sense mean that he was there and I was there, "He and I" is the subject of "were": There is no was missing.

    Similarly "woke up early and felt sick" is the compound predicate for the subject "I" in (a) and there is no missing I to be explained.
    Hello

    What (a) and (b) say (meaning) is one thing; how they are structured (syntax) is another. (b) may sound unnatural, unless (b) is in a context where it sounds quite natural.

    I'll repeat what I said before. All finite verbs need to be paired with their corresponding subjects; it is a basic syntactic principle. In "He and I were there," there is only one verb ("were"). So, to the question, what's the subject of "were"?, the answer is "He and I." One verb, one subject. In "I woke up and felt sick," there are two verbs, "woke up" and "felt sick," and therefore one would expect to find two subjects, one for each verb. What syntax says (and what a syntax tree shows) is that there are two subjects. It so happens that the syntactic subject for the second verb has been either dropped or moved to the front of the sentence, depending on which school of thought you follow, because semantically the second "I" isn't needed. The dropping or the movement of the second subject to the front is possible as long as doing so doesn't undermine the subject-predicate semantic relationship. This isn't unusual. It happens often. Take the sentence President Obama will probably sign the legislation. In a syntactic tree, "will" falls outside the VP (verb phrase) "sign the legislation." Syntactically speaking, there are two subjects, one for the auxiliary verb "will" and one for the lexical verb "sign:" President Obama will probably President Obama sign the legislation. We drop/move the second subject "President Obama" because it is semantically unnecessary.

    It's really about surface structure (compound predicate) and deep structure (the syntactic structure of the compound predicate; its underlying form). That's precisely the point where you say, in talking about "he and I were there," that "though it does in a sense mean that he was there and I was there."

    Cheers
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I am not saying (b) sounds unnatural. What I am saying is that I is not emphasized in (b). Sentence (b) is a natural-sounding compound sentence, and (a) is a natural-sounding simple sentence whose predicate is compound. Just as the compound subject He and I only needs one predicate, the compound predicate in (b) needs only one subject. Sentence (b) does not have two clauses but one: one subject and one predicate, but the predicate happens to be compound, i.e. two predicates joined by a coordinating conjunction.

    While, however, is usually a subordinating conjunction and subordinates a whole clause inside another one.
     
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