Many language learners miss out the verb BE when they are speaking English. This happens even if they know how the verb BE agrees with the Subject. They very rarely do this with other verbs.

Some examples:

  • "Yesterday I very happy because my sister came to London to see me."
  • "London very large city."
  • "It doesn't matter what I do, they never nice to me."

There may be many other completely different and unrelated sentences where learners may omit the verb BE too. This question isn't meant to only be about these examples.

Why do so many language learners do this?

  • @Glorfindel I am trying to get an answer from people who know these kinds of things so they can be referred to by future users! How about an answer? Feel free to (or rather, please) make it learner language specific! (I may be offering a bounty on this question later). Feb 5, 2016 at 22:08
  • @Glorfindel In the case of Russian is that specifically with Locative Complements? (complements that tell you where something is)? Feb 5, 2016 at 22:26
  • @GoDucks The SE model allows people to ask questions (and then answer them if they want to) just because the they think it will be useful for readers and other members. Actually they need no reason to ask such questions. There are lots of well documented and scientifically evidenced reasons to show why students have this problem. Feb 6, 2016 at 0:41

2 Answers 2


In many languages, the verb to be is not required: it may be optional, used only for emphatic affirmation, or even prohibited. The phenomenon is known as zero copula. English language learners may carry this habit into English, even when it's not grammatically allowed in most circumstances.

One special case in English is the fixed expression "Long time no see", which has its origins in pidgin English, possibly as a calque from Chinese. You have to admit, it's a much more efficient expression than "It has been a long time since we've seen each other". For English learners, the desire to keep expressions short and simple may be a factor in dropping words that they find superfluous, such as the verb to be.


In Italian sometimes the verb is left out and can be deduced from the context, as in the so-called nominal sentences:

• [Essendo] uscito da lavoro, si recò a casa. [~ [having been] off from work, he went home.]
• [Essendo stato] ferito, morì pochi giorni dopo. [~"[having been] wounded, he died a few days later.]

Another interesting case is when the subject of the sentence is omitted. This can be easily understood for native Italian speakers (and many others!) since their (my) original language has a peculiar conjugation for each verb for every person and every tense, so from the verb (which cannot be omitted) the subject can be deduced:

Scrivo [first singular person]

Scrivi [second singular person]


Scrivete [second plural person]


Io scrivo,

Tu scrivi,


Voi scrivete,

but in English the equivalent forms (without subject, which is not correct) would all be "write": is it me who's writing? Is it you? etc.. Even worse:

Scrivevo [first singular person]


Io scrivevo,

which would be, literally, "wrote": who wrote?!

  • 2
    Thanks for the answer. The verb in the main clause is still there in your examples. In English the verb BE also seems to be missing in many subordinate clauses - but like in Italian only if there is no Subject in the subordinate clause. So an interesting answer, but I don't know if this explains why the verb BE is missing for many learnes. Italian speakers are normally very good about remembering to use the verb BE! :-) Feb 5, 2016 at 23:02
  • Those aren't examples of verb-dropping at all. That's pronoun-dropping, which is an entirely different phenomenon. Feb 5, 2016 at 23:05
  • @200_success I know it. I've said "Another interesting case...".
    – mrnld
    Feb 5, 2016 at 23:15
  • I'm concerned not only that this is a remark about a different phenomenon, it's also just inaccurate ("In Italian sometimes the verb is left out…" — which is true, but then the examples contain verbs). Feb 5, 2016 at 23:20
  • @200_success I wasn't clear in my explanation. The verb that has been left out in the first examples is the auxiliary verb to be, as I'm going to show.
    – mrnld
    Feb 5, 2016 at 23:24

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