Null-subject language

In linguistic typology, a null-subject language is a language whose grammar permits an independent clause to lack an explicit subject; such a clause is then said to have a null subject.

Typically, null-subject languages express person, number, and/or gender agreement with the referent on the verb, rendering a subject noun phrase redundant. In the principles and parameters framework, the null subject is controlled by the pro-drop parameter, which is either on or off for a particular language.

For example, in Italian the subject "she" can be either explicit or implicit:

Maria non vuole mangiare. lit. Maria not wants [to-]eat, "Maria does not want to eat".
Non vuole mangiare. lit. Subject not wants [to-]eat, "[(S)he] does not want to eat."

The subject "(s)he" of the second sentence is only implied in Italian. English and French, on the other hand, require an explicit subject in this sentence.

Of the thousands of languages in the world, a considerable number are null-subject languages, from a wide diversity of unrelated language families. They include Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Berber, Bengali, Catalan, Chinese, Estonian, Finnish, Galician, Gujarati, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Slavic languages, Spanish, Tamil and the Turkic languages, as well as most languages related to these, and many others still. In fact, it is rather the absence of pronoun dropping that is an areal feature of Standard Average European, including French, German, and English.[1]


In the framework of government and binding theory of syntax, the term null subject refers to an empty category. The empty category in question is thought to behave like an ordinary pronoun with respect to anaphoric reference and other grammatical behavior. Hence it is most commonly referred to as "pro".

This phenomenon is similar, but not identical, to that of pro-drop languages, which may omit pronouns, including subject pronouns, but also object pronouns. While all pro-drop languages are null-subject languages, not all null-subject languages are pro-drop.

In null-subject languages that have verb inflection in which the verb inflects for person, the grammatical person of the subject is reflected by the inflection of the verb and likewise for number and gender.


The following examples come from Portuguese:

  • "I'm going home" can be translated either as vou para casa or as eu vou para casa, where eu means "I".
  • "It's raining" can be translated as está chovendo (Brazilian Portuguese) or está a chover (European Portuguese). In Portuguese, as in the other Romance languages, there is no exact equivalent for the pronoun it. However, some elder persons say Ele está a chover (European Portuguese) which directly translates to "He is raining".
  • "I'm going home. I'm going to watch TV" would not, except in exceptional circumstances, be translated as Eu vou para casa. Eu vou ver televisão. At least the subject of the second sentence should be omitted in Portuguese unless one wishes to express emphasis, as to emphasize the I.

As the examples illustrate, in many null-subject languages, personal pronouns exist and can be used for emphasis but are dropped whenever they can be inferred from the context. Some sentences do not allow a subject in any form while, in other cases an explicit subject without particular emphasis, would sound awkward or unnatural.

Most Bantu languages are null-subject. For example, in Ganda, 'I'm going home' could be translated as Ŋŋenze ewange or as Nze ŋŋenze ewange, where nze means 'I'.


Arabic is considered a null-subject language, as demonstrated by the following example:

Arabic text: ساعد غيرك، يساعدك
Transliteration: sā‘id ghayrak, yusā‘iduk
Literal translation: help other, he helps you.
Idiomatic translation: You help another, he helps you.


Gəldim, gördüm, işğal etdim ("Veni, vidi, vici").
Literal translation: came, saw, conquered.
Idiomatic translation: I came, I saw, I conquered.


Дойдох, видях, победих ("Veni, vidi, vici").
Literal translation: came, saw, conquered.
Idiomatic translation: I came, I saw, I conquered.


In Catalan, as in Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, etc., the subject is also encoded in the verb conjugation. Pronoun use is not obligatory.

  • (Nosaltres) Anem a la platja: We go to the beach.
  • (Tu) Ets la meva amiga: You are my friend.
  • (Vostès/vosaltres) No són/sou benvinguts aquí: You are not welcome here.
  • (Ells) Estan dormint: They are asleep.
  • (Jo) Necessito ajuda: I need help.
  • (Ell) És a la seva habitació: He is in his bedroom.
  • (Ella) Està cansada: She is tired.

In Catalan, one may choose whether to use the subject or not. If used in an inclined tone, it may be seen as an added emphasis; however, in colloquial speaking, usage of a pronoun is optional. Even so, sentences with a null subject are used more frequently than sentences with a subject. In some cases, it is even necessary to skip the subject to create a grammatically correct sentence.


Most varieties of Chinese tend to be non-null-subject. However, in certain circumstances, most Chinese varieties would remove the subjects, thus forming null-subject sentences. One of the instances where the subject would be removed is when the subject is known. Below is an example in Mandarin:

Chinese text 1 ma : yào wàng le diū ji
Literal translation 1 Mother : Not want forget LE(perfect aspect) throw rubbish .
Chinese text 2 mèimei : zhīdào la
Literal translation 2 Younger sister : (I)know (PARTICLE).
Idiomatic translation Mother : "Do not (you) forget to take out the rubbish." Younger sister : "(I) know it"

The above example clearly shows that a speaker could omit the subject if the doer of the verb is known. In a Chinese imperative sentence, like the first text, the subject is also left out.


In Emilian (a Gallo-Italic language) at least one pronoun (of two) is mandatory.

  • (Nuàtar) A 'ndém in spiàgia: We go to the beach.
  • (Tè) At sē mè amìga: You are my friend.
  • (Vuàtar) A n sî minga bènvgnû chè: You are not welcome here. → (you) you not are not welcome here.
  • (Lōr) I èn drē a durmìr: They are asleep. → (they) they are behind to sleep.
  • (I gat) I èn drē a durmìr: Cats are asleep. → (the cats) they are behind to sleep.
  • (Mè) A gh'ò biśógn 'd ajùt: I need help.
  • (Lò) 'L è in dla sò cambra: He is in his bedroom. → (he) he is in of the his bedroom.
  • (Śvan) 'L è in dla sò cambra: John is in his bedroom. → (John) he is in of the his bedroom.
  • (Lē) L'è stufa: She is tired.


In Galician, as in Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, etc., the subject is also encoded in the verb conjugation. Pronoun use is not obligatory.

  • (Nós) Imos á praia: We go to the beach.
  • (Ti) E-la miña amiga: You are my friend. (Informal singular)
  • (Vós) Non sodes benvidos aquí: You are not welcome here. (Informal Plural)
  • (Eles) Están durmindo: They are sleeping.
  • (Eu) Necesito axuda: I need help.
  • (El) Está no seu cuarto: He is in his bedroom.
  • (Ela) Está cansada: She is tired.

In Galician, one may choose whether to use the subject or not. If used in an inclined tone, it may be seen as an added emphasis; however, in colloquial speaking, usage of a pronoun is optional. Even so, sentences with a null subject are used more frequently than sentences with a subject. In some cases, it is even necessary to skip the subject to create a grammatically correct sentence.

Modern Greek

Ήρθα, είδα, νίκησα (equivalent of "Veni, vidi, vici" in Latin).
Transliteration: Írtha, eída, níkisa.
Literal translation: came, saw, conquered.
Idiomatic translation: I came, I saw, I conquered.


Hebrew is considered a partially null-subject language, as demonstrated by the following example:

Hebrew text: עזור לאחרים, יעזרו לך
Transliteration: azor l'aherim, ya'azru lkha
Literal translation: help others, will-help you
Idiomatic translation: you help others, they will help you.

Subjects can usually be omitted only when the verb is conjugated for grammatical person, as in the third-person plural in the example above. In Hebrew one can also construct null-subject sentences as in the Latin and Turkish language examples: "We/y'all/they are going to the beach" can be expressed as "holkhim la-yam" (הולכים לים), lit. "Are going to the beach." This is truly a null-subject construction.

As in Spanish and Turkish though, Hebrew conjugates verbs in accordance with specific pronouns, so "we went to the beach" is technically just as much a null-subject construction as in the other languages, but in fact the conjugation does indicate the subject pronoun: "Halakhnu la-yam" (הלכנו לים), lit. "Went (we) to the beach." The word "halakhnu" means "we went", just as the Spanish and Turkish examples indicate the relevant pronoun as the subject in their conjugation. So these should perhaps not be considered to be true null-subject phrases. Potentially confusing the issue further, is the fact that Hebrew word order can also make some sentences appear to be null-subject, when the subject is in fact given after the verb. For instance, "it's raining" is expressed "yored geshem" (יורד גשם) which means "descends rain" - rain is the subject. The phrases meaning "It's snowing" and "It's hailing" are formed in the same way.


Japanese and several other null-subject languages are topic-prominent languages; some of these languages require an expressed topic in order for sentences to make sense. In Japanese, for example, it is possible to start a sentence with a topic marked by the particle wa, and in subsequent sentences leave the topic unstated, as it is understood to remain the same, until another one is either explicitly or implicitly introduced. For example, in the second sentence below, the subject ("we") is not expressed again but left implicit:

Japanese text わたしたち もの した。 あと はん べた。
Transliteration Watashitachi wa kaimono o shita. Ato de gohan o tabeta.
Literal translation We (TOPIC) shopping (OBJ) did. After (COMPL) dinner (OBJ) ate.
Idiomatic translation "We went shopping. Afterwards, we ate dinner."

In other cases, the topic can be changed without being explicitly stated, as in the following example, where the topic changes implicitly from "today" to "I".

Japanese text 今日きょう ゲーム はつばい なんだ けど、 おうか どうか まよっている。
Transliteration Kyō wa gēmu no hatsubaibi na n da kedo, kaō ka ka Mayotte iru.
Literal translation Today (TOPIC) game (GEN) release date is but, whether to buy or not confused.
Idiomatic translation "The game comes out today, but (I) can't decide whether or not to buy (it)."


Latin text: Veni, vidi, vici.
Literal translation: (I) came, (I) saw, (I) conquered.
Idiomatic translation: I came, I saw, I conquered.

Latin text: Cogito ergo sum.
Literal translation: (I) think, therefore (I) am.
Idiomatic translation: I think, therefore I am.


Дојдов, видов, победив ("Veni, vidi, vici").
Literal translation: came, saw, conquered.
Idiomatic translation: I came, I saw, I conquered.


Myślę, więc jestem. ("Cogito ergo sum").
Literal translation: (I) think, therefore (I) am.
Idiomatic translation: I think, therefore I am.

In Polish, the subject is omitted almost every time, although it can be present to put emphasis on the subject.


Пришёл, увидел, победил ("Veni, vidi, vici").
Literal translation: came, saw, conquered.
Idiomatic translation: I came, I saw, I conquered.


In Spanish, as with Latin and most Romance languages, the subject is encoded in the verb conjugation. Pronoun use is not obligatory.

  • (Yo) Necesito ayuda: I need help.
  • (Tú) Eres mi amiga: You(infrm) are my friend.
  • (Usted) Me ve: You(frm) see me.
  • (Él) Está en su habitación: He is in his bedroom.
  • (Ella) Está cansada: She is tired.
  • (Nosotros) Vamos a la playa: We go to the beach.
  • (Vosotros) Deberíais andarse: You(pl, infrm) should leave.
  • (Ustedes) No son bienvenidos aquí: You(pl) are not welcome here.
  • (Ellos) Están durmiendo: They are asleep.
  • (Ellas) Van allí: They(fem) go there..

In Spanish, for the most part one may choose whether to use the subject or not. Generally if a subject is provided, it is either for clarity or for emphasis. Sentences with a null subject are used more frequently than sentences with a subject. In some cases, it is even necessary to skip the subject to create a grammatically correct sentence.


Geldim, gördüm, yendim ("Veni, vidi, vici").
Literal translation: I came, I saw, I conquered.
Ben geldim, ben gördüm, ben yendim
Idiomatic translation: I came, I saw, I conquered.


Verb conjugations in Tamil incorporate suffixes for number (singular and plural) and person (1st, 2nd and 3rd), and also for gender (masculine, feminine and neuter) in the third person. An explicit subject, therefore, is unnecessary, and can be inferred from the verb conjugation.

Tamil script: முடிந்துவிட்டது
Transliteration: muḍinduviṭṭadu
Literal Translation: It has left, having ended.
Actual Translation: It has come to an end.

Impersonal constructions

In some cases (impersonal constructions), a proposition has no referent at all. Pro-drop languages deal naturally with these, whereas many non-pro-drop languages such as English and French must fill in the syntactic gap by inserting a dummy pronoun. "*Rains" is not a correct sentence; a dummy "it" must be added: "It rains"; in French "Il pleut". In most Romance languages, however, "Rains" can be a sentence: Spanish "Llueve", Italian "Piove", Catalan "Plou", Portuguese "Chove", Romanian "Plouă", etc. Uralic and Slavic languages also show this trait: Finnish "Sataa", Hungarian "Esik"; Polish "Pada".

There are constructed languages that are not pro-drop but do not require this syntactic gap to be filled. For example, in Esperanto, "He made the cake" would translate as Li faris la kukon (never *Faris la kukon), but It rained yesterday would be Pluvis hieraŭ (not *Ĝi pluvis hieraŭ).

Null subjects in non-null-subject languages

Other languages (sometimes called non-null-subject languages) require each sentence to include a subject: this is the case for most Germanic languages, including English and German, as well as many other languages. French, though a Romance language, also requires a subject. In some cases—particularly in English, less so in German, and occasionally in French—colloquial expressions allow for the omission of the subject in a manner similar to that of Spanish or Russian:

"[I] Bumped into George this morning."
"[We] Agreed to have a snifter to catch up on old times."
"[He] Told me what the two of you had been up to."
"[You] Went down to Brighton for the weekend?"

The imperative form

Even in such non-null-subject languages as English, it is standard for clauses in the imperative mood to lack explicit subjects; for example:

"Take a break—you're working too hard."
"Shut up!"
"Don't listen to him!"

An explicit declaration of the pronoun in the imperative mood is typically reserved for emphasis:

"You stay away!"
"Don't you listen to him!"

French and German offer less flexibility with respect to null subjects.

In French, it is neither grammatically correct nor possible to include the subject within the imperative form; the vous in the expression taisez-vous stems from the fact that se taire, "to be silent," is a reflexive verb and is thus the object with similar meaning to "yourself" in an English imperative.

In German, the pronoun (singular du or plural ihr) is normally omitted from the informal second-person imperative (Mach das, "Do it"), although it may be added in a colloquial manner for emphasis (Macht ihr das!, "You [guys] do it!"). By contrast, the addressee-specific formal imperative requires the addition of the pronoun Sie (as in Machen Sie das!, "Do it, [sir/ma'am]!") to avoid confusion with the otherwise morphologically identical infinitive, whereas the addressee-nonspecific or "neutral" formal imperative omits the pronoun and moves the verb to final position (as in Bitte nicht stören, "Please do not disturb"). On the other hand, the pronoun wir is always included in the first-person plural imperative (Machen wir das!, "Let's do it!"), with the verb appearing in first position to differentiate the imperative from the indicative mood, wherein the verb appears in second position (as in Wir machen das, "We're doing it").[2]

Auxiliary languages

Many international auxiliary languages, while not officially pro-drop, permit pronoun omission with some regularity.


In Interlingua, pronoun omission is most common with the pronoun il, which means "it" when referring to part of a sentence or to nothing in particular. Examples of this word include

Il pluvia.
It's raining.
Il es ver que ille arriva deman.
It is true that he arrives tomorrow.

Il tends to be omitted whenever the contraction "it's" can be used in English. Thus, il may be omitted from the second sentence above: "Es ver que ille arriva deman". In addition, subject pronouns are sometimes omitted when they can be inferred from a previous sentence:

Illa audiva un crito. Curreva al porta. Aperiva lo.
She heard a cry. Ran to the door. Opened it.


Similarly, Esperanto sometimes exhibits pronoun deletion in casual use. This deletion is normally limited to subject pronouns, especially where the pronoun has been used just previously:

Ĉu vi vidas lin? Venas nun.
QUESTION-PARTICLE you see him? Comes now.
Do you see him? He is coming now.

In "official" use, however, Esperanto admits of null-subject sentences in two cases only:

  • (optional) in the 2nd person imperative (N.B. The Esperanto imperative is often named "volitive" instead, since it can be conjugated with a subject in any person, and also used in subordinate clauses)
    Venu! Come!
    Vi venu! You [there], come [with me]! (pronoun added for emphasis)
  • For "impersonal verbs" which have no semantic subject. In English or French, an "empty" subject is nevertheless required:
    Pluvas. It is raining. FR: Il pleut.
    Estas nun somero. It is summer now. FR: C'est l'été à présent.
    Estas vere, ke li alvenos morgaŭ. It is true that he will arrive tomorrow. FR: C'est vrai qu'il arrivera demain.
    (In this latter case, the sentence is not really no-subject, since "ke li alvenos morgaŭ" ("that he will arrive tomorrow") is the subject.)

Contrary to the Interlingua example above, and as in English, a repeated subject can normally be omitted only within a single sentence:

Ŝi aŭdis krion. Ŝi kuris al la pordo. Ŝi malfermis ĝin.
She heard a shout. She ran to the door. She opened it.
Ŝi aŭdis krion, kuris al la pordo kaj malfermis ĝin.
She heard a shout, ran to the door and opened it.


  1. ^ Martin Haspelmath, The European linguistic area: Standard Average European, in Martin Haspelmath, et al., Language Typology and Language Universals, vol. 2, 2001, pp. 1492-1510
  2. ^ Joyce, Paul. "German verbs: the imperative". The Paul Joyce Beginners' German Course. Paul Joyce. Retrieved 31 May 2018.


  • Alexiadou, Artemis 2006. Uniform and non-uniform aspects of pro-drop languages. In Arguments and agreement, ed. P. Ackema, P. Brandt, M. Schoorlemmer & F. Weerman, 127-158. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Barbosa, Pilar MEL Duarte, and M Kato. (2005) Null Subjects in European and Brazilian Portuguese. Journal of Portuguese Linguistics. ([1])
  • Biberauer, Theresa, Anders Holmberg, Ian Roberts and Michele Sheehan (eds). 2010. Parametric Variation: Null subjects in Minimalist Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cook, Manuela. (1997) A Theory for the Interpretation of Forms of Address in the Portuguese Language. Hispania, Vol 80, Nº 3, AATSP, USA
  • Chomsky, Noam 1981. Lectures on government and binding. Studies in Generative Grammar 9. Dordrecht: Foris.
  • Chomsky, Noam 1982. Concepts and Consequences of the Theory of Government and Binding. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • D’Alessandro, Roberta. 2014. The Null Subject Parameter: Where are we and where are we headed? Ms. Leiden University Centre for Linguistics.
  • Gilligan, Gary Martin. 1987. “A crosslinguistic approach to prodrop parameter.” PhD. dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
  • Holmberg, Anders. 2005. “Is there a little pro? Evidence from Finnish.” Linguistic Inquiry 36:533-564.
  • Jaeggli, Oswaldo and Ken Safir 1987 (eds) The null subject parameter. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
  • Kučerová, Ivona 2014. “The Syntax of Null Subjects.” Syntax 17:2, 132167.
  • Perlmutter, David 1971. Deep and surface constraints in syntax. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Rizzi, Luigi 1986. 'Null Objects in Italian and the Theory of pro' Linguistic Inquiry 17:1986. pp. 501-557.
  • Rizzi, Luigi 1982. Issues in Italian Syntax, Foris Publications, Dordrecht.
  • Vikner, Sten. 1995. Verb Movement and Expletive Subjects in the Germanic Languages, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Zanuttini, Raffaella. 2008. Microcomparative syntax in English verbal agreement. Talk at NELS 39, November 2008.

External links

  • List of languages including pro-drop (PD) or non-pro-drop (NPD) status, which is usually related to null-subject or non-null-subject status.
Agreement (linguistics)

Agreement or concord (abbreviated agr) happens when a word changes form depending on the other words to which it relates. It is an instance of inflection, and usually involves making the value of some grammatical category (such as gender or person) "agree" between varied words or parts of the sentence.

For example, in Standard English, one may say I am or he is, but not "I is" or "he am". This is because the grammar of the language requires that the verb and its subject agree in person. The pronouns I and he are first and third person respectively, as are the verb forms am and is. The verb form must be selected so that it has the same person as the subject in contrast to notional agreement, which is based on meaning. For instance, in American English the phrase the United Nations is treated as singular for purposes of agreement even though it is formally plural.

Aromanian language

Aromanian (rrãmãneshti, armãneashti, armãneshce, "Aromanian", or

limba rrãmãniascã/


armãneshce, "Aromanian language"), also known as Macedo-Romanian or Vlach, is an Eastern Romance language, similar to Meglenoromanian, or a dialect of the Romanian language spoken in Southeastern Europe. Its speakers are called Aromanians or Vlachs (a broader term and an exonym in widespread use to define Romance communities in the Balkans).

Aromanian shares many features with modern Romanian, including similar morphology and syntax, as well as a large common vocabulary inherited from Latin. An important source of dissimilarity between Romanian and Aromanian is the adstratum languages (external influences); whereas Romanian has been influenced to a greater extent by the Slavic languages, Aromanian has been more influenced by Greek, with which it has been in close contact throughout its history.

Czech conjugation

Czech conjugation is a term denoting Czech language verb conjugation, or system of grammatically-determined modifications, in verbs in the Czech language.

Czech is a null-subject language, i.e. the subject (including personal pronouns) can be omitted if known from context. The person is expressed by the verb:

já dělám = dělám = I do

on dělal = dělal = he was doing

Dummy pronoun

A dummy pronoun, also called an expletive pronoun or pleonastic pronoun, is a pronoun used to fulfill the syntactical requirements without providing explicit meaning.Dummy pronouns are used in many Germanic languages, including German and English. Pronoun-dropping languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Turkish do not require dummy pronouns.A dummy pronoun is used when a particular verb argument (or preposition) is nonexistent (it could also be unknown, irrelevant, already understood, or otherwise "not to be spoken of directly") but when a reference to the argument (a pronoun) is nevertheless syntactically required. For example, in the phrase "It is obvious that the violence will continue", it is a dummy pronoun, not referring to any agent. Unlike a regular pronoun of English, it cannot be replaced by any noun phrase.The term dummy pronoun refers to the function of a word in a particular sentence, not a property of individual words. For example, it in the example from the previous paragraph is a dummy pronoun, but it in the sentence "I bought a sandwich and ate it" is a referential pronoun (referring to the sandwich).

French grammar

French grammar is the set of rules by which the French language creates statements, questions and commands. In many respects, it is quite similar to that of the other Romance languages.

French is a moderately inflected language. Nouns and most pronouns are inflected for number (singular or plural, though in most nouns the plural is pronounced the same as the singular even if spelled differently); adjectives, for number and gender (masculine or feminine) of their nouns; personal pronouns and a few other pronouns, for person, number, gender, and case; and verbs, for tense, aspect, mood, and the person and number of their subjects. Case is primarily marked using word order and prepositions, while certain verb features are marked using auxiliary verbs.

Gallo-Romance languages

The Gallo-Romance branch of the Romance languages includes in the narrowest sense the French language, the Occitan language, and the Franco-Provençal language (Arpitan). However, other definitions are far broader, variously encompassing the Catalan language, the Gallo-Italic languages, and Rhaeto-Romance languages.

Impersonal verb

In linguistics, an impersonal verb is one that has no determinate subject. For example, in the sentence "It rains", rain is an impersonal verb and the pronoun it does not refer to anything. In many languages the verb takes a third person singular inflection and often appears with an expletive subject. In the active voice, impersonal verbs can be used to express operation of nature, mental distress, and acts with no reference to the do-er. Impersonal verbs are also called weather verbs because they frequently appear in the context of weather description. Also, indefinite pronouns may be called "impersonal", as they refer to an unknown person, like one or someone, and there is overlap between the use of the two.


Infinitive (abbreviated INF) is a grammatical term referring to certain verb forms existing in many languages, most often used as non-finite verbs. As with many linguistic concepts, there is not a single definition applicable to all languages. The word is derived from Late Latin [modus] infinitivus, a derivative of infinitus meaning "unlimited".

In traditional descriptions of English, the infinitive is the basic dictionary form of a verb when used non-finitely, with or without the particle to. Thus to go is an infinitive, as is go in a sentence like "I must go there" (but not in "I go there", where it is a finite verb). The form without to is called the bare infinitive, and the form with to is called the full infinitive or to-infinitive.

In many other languages the infinitive is a single word, often with a characteristic inflective ending, like morir ("(to) die") in Spanish, manger ("(to) eat") in French, portare ("(to) carry") in Latin, lieben ("(to) love") in German, etc. However, some languages have no infinitive forms. Many Native American languages, and some languages in Africa and Australia do not have direct equivalents to infinitives or verbal nouns. Instead, they use finite verb forms in ordinary clauses or various special constructions.

Being a verb, an infinitive may take objects and other complements and modifiers to form a verb phrase (called an infinitive phrase). Like other non-finite verb forms (like participles, converbs, gerunds and gerundives), infinitives do not generally have an expressed subject; thus an infinitive verb phrase also constitutes a complete non-finite clause, called an infinitive (infinitival) clause. Such phrases or clauses may play a variety of roles within sentences, often being nouns (for example being the subject of a sentence or being a complement of another verb), and sometimes being adverbs or other types of modifier. Many verb forms known as infinitives differ from gerunds (verbal nouns) in that they do not inflect for case or occur in adpositional phrases. Instead, infinitives often originate in earlier inflectional forms of verbal nouns. Unlike finite verbs, infinitives are not usually inflected for tense, person, etc. either, although some degree of inflection sometimes occurs; for example Latin has distinct active and passive infinitives.

Italian language

Italian (italiano [itaˈljaːno] (listen) or lingua italiana [ˈliŋɡwa itaˈljaːna]) is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to Vulgar Latin of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland (where it is the first language in Canton Ticino and in the districts of Moesa and Bernina in Canton Graubünden), San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria (Croatia and Slovenia). It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece (Ionian Islands and Dodecanese), and is generally understood in Corsica (also due to the similarities with the Corsican language) and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. In spite of not existing any Italian community in their respective national territories and of not being spoken at any level, Italian is included de jure, but not de facto, between the recognized minority languages of Bosnia-Herzegovina (along with 14 more languages) and Romania (together with 19 other languages). Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both standardized Italian and other regional languages.Italian is a major European language, being one of the official languages of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and one of the working languages of the Council of Europe. It is the fourth most widely spoken first language in the European Union with 69 million native speakers (13% of the EU population) and it is spoken as a second language by 16 million EU citizens (3%). Including Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland and Albania) and on other continents, the total number of speakers is around 90 million. Italian is the main working language of the Holy See, serving as the lingua franca (common language) in the Roman Catholic hierarchy as well as the official language of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Italian is known as the language of music because of its use in musical terminology and opera. Its influence is also widespread in the arts and in the luxury goods market. Italian has been reported as the fourth or fifth most frequently taught foreign language in the world.Italian was adopted by the state after the Unification of Italy, having previously been a literary language based on Tuscan as spoken mostly by the upper class of Florentine society. Its development was also influenced by other Italian languages and to some minor extent, by the Germanic languages of the post-Roman invaders. The incorporation into Italian of learned words from its own ancestor language, Latin, is another form of lexical borrowing through the influence of written language, scientific terminology and the liturgical language of the Church. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period, most literate Italians were also literate in Latin; and thus they easily adopted Latin words into their writing—and eventually speech—in Italian. Its vowels are the second-closest to Latin after Sardinian. As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive but, unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants. Almost all words and syllables finish with pure vowels, a factor that makes Italian words extremely easy to use in rhyming. Italian has a 7 vowel sound system ('e' and 'o' have mid-low and mid-high sounds); Classical Latin had 10, 5 with short and 5 with long sounds.

Personal pronoun

Personal pronouns are pronouns that are associated primarily with a particular grammatical person – first person (as I), second person (as you), or third person (as he, she, it, they). Personal pronouns may also take different forms depending on number (usually singular or plural), grammatical or natural gender, case, and formality. The term "personal" is used here purely to signify the grammatical sense; personal pronouns are not limited to people and can also refer to animals and objects (as the English personal pronoun it usually does).

The re-use in some languages of one personal pronoun to indicate a second personal pronoun with formality or social distance – commonly a second person plural to signify second person singular formal – is known as the T–V distinction, from the Latin pronouns tu and vos. Examples are the majestic plural in English and the use of "vous" in place of "tu" in French.

For specific details of the personal pronouns used in the English language, see English personal pronouns.

Portuguese grammar

Portuguese grammar, the morphology and syntax of the Portuguese language, is similar to the grammar of most other Romance languages — especially that of Spanish, and even more so to that of Galician. It is a relatively synthetic, fusional language.

Nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and articles are moderately inflected: there are two genders (masculine and feminine) and two numbers (singular and plural). The case system of the ancestor language, Latin, has been lost, but personal pronouns are still declined with three main types of forms: subject, object of verb, and object of preposition. Most nouns and many adjectives can take diminutive or augmentative derivational suffixes, and most adjectives can take a so-called "superlative" derivational suffix. Adjectives usually follow their respective nouns.

Verbs are highly inflected: there are three tenses (past, present, future), three moods (indicative, subjunctive, imperative), three aspects (perfective, imperfective, and progressive), three voices (active, passive, reflexive), and an inflected infinitive. Most perfect and imperfect tenses are synthetic, totaling 11 conjugational paradigms, while all progressive tenses and passive constructions are periphrastic. There is also an impersonal passive construction, with the agent replaced by an indefinite pronoun. Portuguese is basically an SVO language, although SOV syntax may occur with a few object pronouns, and word order is generally not as rigid as in English. It is a null subject language, with a tendency to drop object pronouns as well, in colloquial varieties. Like Spanish, it has two main copular verbs: ser and estar.

It has a number of grammatical features that distinguish it from most other Romance languages, such as a synthetic pluperfect, a future subjunctive tense, the inflected infinitive, and a present perfect with an iterative sense. A rare feature of Portuguese is mesoclisis, the infixing of clitic pronouns in some verbal forms.

Pro-drop language

A pro-drop language (from "pronoun-dropping") is a language in which certain classes of pronouns may be omitted when they are pragmatically or grammatically inferable (the precise conditions vary from language to language, and can be quite intricate). The phenomenon of "pronoun-dropping" is also commonly referred to as zero or null anaphora. In the case of pro-drop languages, null anaphora refers to the fact that the null position has referential properties, meaning it is not a null dummy pronoun. Pro-drop is only licensed in languages that have a positive setting of the pro-drop parameter, which allows the null element to be identified by its governor. In pro-drop languages with a highly inflected verbal morphology, the expression of the subject pronoun is considered unnecessary because the verbal inflection indicates the person and number of the subject, thus the referent of the null subject can be inferred from the grammatical inflection on the verb.Even though in everyday speech there are instances when who or what is being referred to can be inferred from context, non-pro-drop languages still require the pronoun. However, pro-drop languages allow those referential pronouns to be omitted, or be phonologically null. Among major languages, two of which might be called a pro-drop language are Japanese and Korean (featuring pronoun deletion not only for subjects, but for practically all grammatical contexts). Chinese, Slavic languages, and American Sign Language also exhibit frequent pro-drop features. In contrast, non-pro-drop is an areal feature of many northern European languages (see Standard Average European), including French, (standard) German, and English.Some languages might be considered only partially pro-drop in that they allow deletion of the subject pronoun. These null-subject languages include most Romance languages (French is an exception) as well as all the Balto-Slavic languages and to a limited extent Icelandic. Colloquial and dialectal German, unlike the standard language, are also partially pro-drop; they typically allow deletion of the subject pronoun in main clauses but not in subordinate clauses.

Second-language acquisition classroom research

Second-language acquisition classroom research is an area of research in second-language acquisition concerned with how people learn languages in educational settings. There is a significant overlap between classroom research and language education. Classroom research is empirical, basing its findings on data and statistics wherever possible. It is also more concerned with what the learners do in the classroom than with what the teacher does. Where language teaching methods may only concentrate on the activities the teacher plans for the class, classroom research concentrates on the effect the things the teacher does has on the students.

Spanish language

Spanish ( (listen); español ) or Castilian ( (listen), castellano ) is a Western Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.Spanish is a part of the Ibero-Romance group of languages, which evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin in Iberia after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. The oldest Latin texts with traces of Spanish come from mid-northern Iberia in the 9th century, and the first systematic written use of the language happened in Toledo, then capital of the Kingdom of Castile, in the 13th century. Beginning in 1492, the Spanish language was taken to the viceroyalties of the Spanish Empire, most notably to the newly-discovered the Americas, as well as territories in Africa, Oceania and the Philippines.Around 75% of modern Spanish vocabulary is derived from Latin.

Ancient Greek has also contributed substantially to Spanish vocabulary, especially through Latin, where it had a great impact.

Spanish vocabulary has been in contact with Arabic from an early date, having developed during the Al-Andalus era in the Iberian Peninsula. With around 8% of its vocabulary being Arabic in origin, this language is the second most important influence after Latin.

It has also been influenced by Basque, Iberian, Celtiberian, Visigothic, and by neighboring Ibero-Romance languages.Additionally, it has absorbed vocabulary from other languages, particularly the Romance languages—French, Italian, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Occitan, and Sardinian—as well as from Nahuatl, Quechua, and other indigenous languages of the Americas.Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. It is also used as an official language by the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the African Union and many other international organizations.Despite its large number of speakers, the Spanish language does not feature prominently in scientific writing, with the exception of the humanities.


In linguistic typology, a subject–object–verb (SOV) language is one in which the subject, object, and verb of a sentence always or usually appear in that order. If English were SOV, "Sam oranges ate" would be an ordinary sentence, as opposed to the actual Standard English "Sam ate oranges".

The term is often loosely used for ergative languages like Adyghe and Basque that really have agents instead of subjects.

Talysh language

The Talysh language (Talışi / Толыши / تالشه زَوُن) is a Northwestern Iranian language spoken in the northern regions of the Iranian provinces of Gilan and Ardabil and the southern regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan by around 200,000 people. Talysh language is closely related to the Tati language. Historically, the language and its people can be traced through the middle Iranian period back to the ancient Medes. It includes many dialects usually divided into three main clusters: Northern (in Azerbaijan and Iran), Central (Iran) and Southern (Iran). Talyshi is partially, but not fully, intelligible with respect to Persian. Talysh is classified as "vulnerable" by UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.

Tamil grammar

Much of Tamil grammar is extensively described in the oldest available grammar book for Tamil, the Tolkāppiyam (dated between 300 BC and 500 AD). Modern Tamil writing is largely based on the 13th century grammar Naṉṉūl which restated and clarified the rules of the Tolkāppiyam, with some modifications.

Tamil language

Tamil (; தமிழ் Tamiḻ [t̪ɐmɨɻ], pronunciation ) is a Dravidian language predominantly spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka, and by the Tamil diaspora, Sri Lankan Moors, Douglas, and Chindians. Tamil is an official language of two countries: Sri Lanka and Singapore and official language of the Indian state Tamil Nadu. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry. It is used as one of the languages of education in Malaysia, along with English, Malay and Mandarin. Tamil is spoken by significant minorities in the four other South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.

Tamil is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world. Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions from 500 BC have been found on Adichanallur and 2,200-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions have been found on Samanamalai. A. K. Ramanujan described it as "the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past." The variety and quality of classical Tamil literature has led to it being described as "one of the great classical traditions and literature of the world".A recorded Tamil literature has been documented for over 2000 years. The earliest period of Tamil literature, Sangam literature, is dated from ca. 300 BC – AD 300. It has the oldest extant literature among Dravidian languages. The earliest epigraphic records found on rock edicts and 'hero stones' date from around the 3rd century BC. More than 55% of the epigraphical inscriptions (about 55,000) found by the Archaeological Survey of India are in the Tamil language. Tamil language inscriptions written in Brahmi script have been discovered in Sri Lanka and on trade goods in Thailand and Egypt. The two earliest manuscripts from India, acknowledged and registered by the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 1997 and 2005, were written in Tamil.In 1578, Portuguese Christian missionaries published a Tamil prayer book in old Tamil script named Thambiran Vanakkam, thus making Tamil the first Indian language to be printed and published. The Tamil Lexicon, published by the University of Madras, was one of the earliest dictionaries published in the Indian languages. According to a 2001 survey, there were 1,863 newspapers published in Tamil, of which 353 were dailies.


A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (bring, read, walk, run, learn), an occurrence (happen, become), or a state of being (be, exist, stand). In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive. In many languages, verbs are inflected (modified in form) to encode tense, aspect, mood, and voice. A verb may also agree with the person, gender or number of some of its arguments, such as its subject, or object. Verbs have tenses: present, to indicate that an action is being carried out; past, to indicate that an action has been done; future, to indicate that an action will be done.

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