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A movie clip of the movie 'Justice League' starts with this monologue by Bruce Wayne:

I believe there is a stranger (1) comes to this village from the sea (2) comes in the winter when the people are hungry (3) brings fish. He comes on the king tide. That was last night.

First, please listen to the clip to see if you can hear any sound in (1), (2) and/or (3). If not, please answer the questions below.

There's a pause in (1), (2) and (3). Is "He" omitted from all of these?

I believe there is a stranger. He comes to this village from the sea. He comes in the winter when the people are hungry. He brings fish. He comes on the king tide. That was last night.

Or is "who" omitted from (1) and "he" from (2) and (3)?

I believe there is a stranger who comes to this village from the sea. He comes in the winter when the people are hungry. He brings fish. He comes on the king tide. That was last night.

In any case, how natural is this practice of omitting the subject of a clause -- be it "he" or "who" -- in speech?

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  • I'll write a comment instead of an answer because I am not quite sure what the answer is but I don't think it's a very common way to speak. I don't hear "he" or "who" omitted very often or maybe my brain just fills it in automatically. I think the guy playing Batman might have been speaking that way to emphasize the solemnity of the situation and give a special sort of effect to his speech in that moment.
    – Phil14
    Jan 5, 2018 at 11:55
  • Listen again. I hear "who" and "he" at (2) is both unnecessary and preserves hiding the gender until he says: "He brings fish".
    – Rob
    Jan 8, 2018 at 9:12
  • I'm with Rob - it almost sounds like the words are indeed there, just hardly voiced. Especially with the force that the C in "come" is pronounced both times - it sounds like it's coming off a vowel. Jan 8, 2018 at 20:09
  • @GabrielLuci Can you hear (1)? If so, is it who or He?
    – JK2
    Jan 9, 2018 at 0:26
  • It sounds like "who" to me. I don't hear the "wh", but when he says "comes", it sounds like it's coming off an "oo" sound. Jan 9, 2018 at 1:40

3 Answers 3

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+25

I believe there is a stranger. Comes to this village from the sea. Comes in the winter when the people are hungry. Brings fish. He comes on the king tide.

The omission of the pronoun is natural in speech when the subject is understood. And this omission is used in the scene to create an air of mystery and tension as user @Rob suggested in their answer.

There's no need to punctuate every statement with the pronoun, the subject is clearly nominated from the start.

The term "a stranger" is used, and moviegoers see a beefed up ‘man’ with long brown hair and piercing ice-blue eyes, standing alone on Bruce Wayne's left. Aquaman is present in the scene, so Wayne's speech is clearly referring to him.

UPDATE

I found a different trailer on YouTube, entitled Justice League Official Comic-Con Trailer (2017) - Ben Affleck Movie, it has something like 42 million views, and I can distinctly hear the pronoun "who" uttered by Bruce Wayne's deep smokey voice. The entire mini-dialogue is the following

Bruce Wayne: There is a... stranger who comes to this village from the sea. Comes in the winter when the people are hungry, and [the conjunction is barely audible] brings fish. Comes on the king tide. That was last night.
Arthur Curry (alias Aqua Man): Talk

So, as can be seen, and heard, the relative pronoun who is used, and I also detect a mumbled "and" which joins the two clauses: Comes in the winter[…] and brings fish.

The pronoun he might be uttered before "comes". Unfortunately, my hearing is far from perfect, so I might be mistaken here. In any case, it isn't essential because the person being described is the "stranger" who brings fish to the village in winter.

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  • From your punctuation, I guess you think (1) is He, not who. If I'm guessing correctly, what makes you think it's He, not who?
    – JK2
    Jan 8, 2018 at 12:13
  • @jk2 either fits, if you're going the two clauses together then It makes sense to use "who" but in the movie they don't. It's best that you ask the screenwriter or Ben Affleck, why "who" or "he" was omitted.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 8, 2018 at 12:18
  • If indeed comes to this village from the sea is a subordinate clause that modifies stranger, shouldn't who be mandatory? Because who acts as a subject in the relative clause and thus cannot be omitted, I think.
    – JK2
    Jan 8, 2018 at 12:44
  • @JK2 IF..are you 100% sure that it is a subordinate clause? Can you prove it? Does it really matter? Neither "who" nor "he" is uttered anyway. Besides, your question specifically asks about omitting the subject (pronoun) from statements. The subject is clearly understood, you can leave out pronouns in informal speech and writing.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 8, 2018 at 15:33
  • It's not that I'm 100% sure that it's a subordinate clause, but that semantically it's probable that it is. That's why I said "If indeed..." More importantly, you yourself said, "either fits". So I was asking, if who could be omitted.
    – JK2
    Jan 9, 2018 at 0:23
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Use this version. Download the SubTitles.

<body>
<SYNC Start=1220><P class='en'>There is a stranger
<SYNC Start=3100><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=4000><P class='en'>who comes to this village from the sea.
<SYNC Start=5600><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=7000><P class='en'>He comes in the winter, when people are hungry
<SYNC Start=8900><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=8900><P class='en'>brings fish
<SYNC Start=9800><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=10140><P class='en'>comes on the King tide.
<SYNC Start=11700><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=12880><P class='en'>That was last night.
<SYNC Start=13720><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=20400><P class='en'>Talk.
<SYNC Start=20900><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=23080><P class='en'>I believe that an enemy is coming
<SYNC Start=24560><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=25480><P class='en'>from far away.
<SYNC Start=26380><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=28100><P class='en'>I&#39;m looking for warriors,
<SYNC Start=29220><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=30380><P class='en'>a stranger,
<SYNC Start=31280><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=33660><P class='en'>others like him.
<SYNC Start=34680><P class='en'>&nbsp;
<SYNC Start=36980><P class='en'>I&#39;m building an alliance to defend us .

There is a stranger who comes to this village from the sea. He comes in the winter, when people are hungry brings fish comes on the King tide. That was last night. Talk. I believe that an enemy is coming from far away. I'm looking for warriors, a stranger, others like him. I'm building an alliance to defend us .

He is speaking, the people are listening; think about why they listen, they could tell him to shut it or walk up and poke him in the eye (what's he gonna do about it).

He doesn't mince words, you know to listen or not. That's what that scene portrays.

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  • I wouldn't consider showing another version to be an answer to my question. Moreover, movie trailers tend to have edited lines than actual movie clips have, which seems to be the case here.
    – JK2
    Jan 8, 2018 at 10:13
  • 1
    @JK2 no, that trailer was made in 2016, almost a full year before the actual movie was released. The "who" is definitely heard, off-camera maybe, but it's definitely audible.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 12, 2018 at 2:27
  • 1
    @JK2 this is probably a question better suited to SE Movies & TV, or SE Filmaking if such a site existed. It seems that in the final version the word "who" was a victim of the editing process.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 12, 2018 at 2:44
  • 1
    @JK2 why not? Money doesn't guarantee quality or craftmanship. Have you never seen bloopers? There are far more serious errors that have passed through the net than a pronoun that got cut out. :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 12, 2018 at 2:50
  • 1
    @JK2 so you agree that omitting the subject or relative pronoun is nothing new. Great! Thumbs up.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 12, 2018 at 2:53
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In English, omitting the Subject or personal pronouns is not accepted unlike in European languages like 'Italian', where it is more common to start a sentence with the actual action(verb).

Update: For everyone's benefit, I would elaborate on the answer. Some languages are null-subject languages and some are not.

Please refer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Null-subject_language

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  • Not accepted in English? Sure about that? English is also a European language.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 8, 2018 at 10:47
  • ^ English is incredibly European, Brexit isn't changing that. Jan 9, 2018 at 12:03
  • And, the practice of omitting subjects actually is occasionally acceptable, especially in informal speech. Jan 12, 2018 at 0:32
  • @Mari-LouA and Joel - Hope this clarifies better. Have a great day
    – bitemouth
    Jan 16, 2018 at 11:27
  • Hello, the link seems to suggest that Italian, Russian and Polish are some of the European languages that have this type of syntax. The other languages mentioned are non-European. But, in English, I assure you that the pronoun can be safely omitted in those cases where the subject has been mentioned previously or is clearly understood from context. See the very recent question on ELL Why isn’t the pronoun “it” placed after But?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 16, 2018 at 12:35

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