Dropped pronoun: what the hell is that?

Welcome back to What the hell is that?, the monthly blog series which sheds light on obscure grammatical dark spots.

This month we’ll be diving into the sticky world of pro-drop language. Don’t worry, all will become clear once you start scrolling and reading. Let’s get learn’ed.

What’s a pronoun?

Pronouns are like replacement nouns. When your noun needs some time off in the sentence, your pronoun steps in to bridge the gap.

They are typically used to refer to a noun that has already cropped up in your sentence. They’re super common, super familiar words, like ‘it’, ‘I’, ‘she’ and ‘who’. Let me show you:

Sarah threw coffee over the boss this morning, so she won’t be here this afternoon.

The noun in this sentence is ‘Sarah’. We refer to her in the first instance when we start the sentence, but we need to mention her in the second half, too. Instead of using her name again, we can use the pronoun ‘she’ in its place. That’s your pronoun doing its thang.

The example above uses a ‘personal’ pronoun, but they also come in other flavours, depending on how they’re being used.

Possessive pronouns are words like ‘my’, ‘yours’ and ‘mine’. Instead of saying, this blog is Emma’s, I can swap my name (A.K.A the noun) for a possessive pronoun: this blog is mine.

Reflexive pronouns are the variant form of a personal pronoun. If ‘me’ is a personal pronoun (which it is, BTW), then ‘myself’ is its reflexive form. If ‘he’ is the personal pronoun, then ‘himself’ is the reflexive form.

Now we know what a pronoun is, how do we drop it?


How do you ‘drop’ a pronoun?

To drop a pronoun (or pro-drop, as it’s called), you simply axe the pronoun from your sentence. For example:

Pronoun included: Do you want to order a pizza tonight?

Pronoun dropped: Want to order a pizza tonight?

How about this jazzy little email opener…

Pronoun included: I hope you’re well

Pronoun dropped: Hope you’re well

As you can probably guess from the example, pro-drop language happens all the time. Which leads me to my next point—is it okay to do?


Is it okay to drop a pronoun?

Here’s the thing—people already drop pronouns a shit ton in everyday writing. When you send an email, when you tap out a WhatsApp or a text. Yes, you’ve dropped your pronouns but you’ve also saved time and cut to the point.

Some languages are pro pro-drop—most notably the Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean languages. In British English, you can’t get away with it quite so easily. It looks kinda rude.

My advice here is to look at the context in which you’re writing. Are you writing something relaxed and social? Go for the conversational pro-drop and be done with it. If you’re writing something which requires correct formal British English, keep them pronouns in.

Freestyle it bro, you’ll know what to do when the time comes!

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