Leaving out the "subject" at the beginning of a sentence? I think this mostly concerns spoken English!
Is this considered grammar correct or just a phenomenon that occurs in intimate conversational spoken English?

For example:

  • Hey, why are you examining the book?
  • (I am) Trying to figure out what to do with it.


  • How are the apples? Have you tried them already?
  • (They are) Quite good! Really!

Unfortunately I cannot give sources where I've met such constructions but I can obviously tell you that I've heard them in movies and TV series!

I have analysed the E.L.U. question concerning "Conversational Deletion" and can't understand whether it is considered less formal or not proper English? Can it be used outside spoken English?

  • I think the ELU post is quite clear. It is informal, colloquial usage. More often found in spoken English, but can be found also in written English mainly in direct speech.
    – user5267
    Dec 13, 2016 at 10:40
  • 2
    All of your example sentences are ungrammatical. You cannot leave out "you" in the first question. The answer would begin with "Trying" not "Am" (in speech, as distinct from a text message). And the reply to the apples question would begin with "Quite" not with the verb "Are". And more idiomatic would be "Have you tried them already", not simple past "Did".
    – TimR
    Dec 13, 2016 at 11:06
  • I've downvoted the question to signal to other learners that it is based on a misconception, so that they will not be misled.
    – TimR
    Dec 13, 2016 at 11:11
  • 2
    Sentences beginning with am don't occur in speech as a result of conversational deletion, but they do occur in writing as a result of diary drop, which is closely related.
    – user230
    Dec 13, 2016 at 14:05
  • 3
    @SovereignSun A kind of omission that occurs chiefly in certain written registers (emails, letters, diaries, etc.). See for example Left-edge deletion in English and subject omission in diaries (Weir 2012) for a technical discussion of the two.
    – user230
    Dec 13, 2016 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


Please note: All of the below is based on American English

Great question!

Grammatically speaking, a subject is always required. However, many of us choose to write grammatically incorrect sentences on purpose. This takes place in chats (verbal or text), but will not take place in proper text such as newspapers or books.

( 1 ) Subject = I : When we leave out the subject "I" the purpose is to sound less arrogant. If we talk about ourselves a lot, it will sound self-centered. You'll often see "I" omitted from Facebook posts. For example, you may see a Facebook post like:

Went to the grocery store today to pick up some apples. Couldn't believe what I saw. There were no apples in the whole store!!

This does make the sentence less formal. I would not omit "I" if I was speaking to my boss. However, in most conversations this is perfectly acceptable.

( 2 ) Subject = inanimate object : There is no particular reason why we leave out the subject in this case. It also does not appear to make the sentence significantly less polite. I would have no problem having the following conversation with my boss:

Boss: "How are the reports coming along?"

Me: "Almost finished! Should be done before the end of today."

  • Also, it seems by omitting the subject, we are putting less focus on the subject itself, and more focus on the rest of the sentence. In my example, "Almost finished!" is putting more focus on the state of the reports rather than the reports themselves.
    – Willow
    Dec 15, 2016 at 4:20

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