Consider this sentence:

"I took the garbage out and read a book "-x

this is short form for:

"I took the garbage out and I read a book"-y

This sentence could naturally appear in a context where someone asks me "What did you do today?". What is the name of phenomena where it is grammatical to drop the repeating pronoun?

I believe this phenomena occurs in German and Malayalam too.

  • 3
    Rather than just also occurring in German and Malayalam, I cannot think of any language where this doesn’t occur. In pro-drop languages, its occurrence is trivial, but even in non-pro-drop languages, it appears (based on the limited sample size of the dozen-or-so languages I know well enough to judge) to be universal that repeated pronouns can be elided. It is less common in Irish (and Scottish) than most other languages I know, which may relate to the fact that Irish is VSO, but I don’t know any other VSO languages well enough to judge the frequency there. Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 14:24
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    The phenomenon is called "Conjunction Reduction" because it occurs in conjoined constituents (phrases or clauses with a conjunction between), and it deletes not only pronouns but also articles, prepositions, and other words, if they're being repeated from the first constituent.
    – jlawler
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 22:50

1 Answer 1


From a syntactic point of view, I would not call this dropping a pronoun—I would call it conjoining verb phrases.

The word "and" can join various different types of units:

I fed the dogs and the cats.
I fed the dogs and pet the cats.
I fed the dogs and Helen pet the cats.

In the first case it's joining noun phrases; in the last case it's joining entire clauses.

So what's it joining in the second case? I would say the verb phrase: a unit made up of the verb and its object(s), but not its subject.

Why analyze it this way? Well, look at what happens when it's an object rather than a subject that's repeated.

I fed, and Helen pet, the cats.

The commas there indicate a noticeable pause in speech, indicating the place where the repeated object has been elided. We don't see this pause when it's the subject that's repeated, indicating that something different is going on in the subject case.

  • Also, with the subject, it’s the subject in the second clause that’s elided and nothing else happens. With the object, it’s the object in the first clause that’s elided. If the same elision were applied, we’d get “*I fed the dogs and Helen pet”, which is ungrammatical. Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 16:52

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