Does English have the grammatical concept of topic similar to Japanese? I think this is explained easier with an example. Someone ask the question:

What is the first thing you do in the morning?

And people reply:

  1. Turn off the alarm, rub my eyes, and check reddit to make sure the world hasn't exploded overnight.
  2. Usually pet my dog
  3. Sadly, check Facebook
  4. more similar...

As we can see here people didn't use the pronouns. Maybe because is implicit. I think this is similar to the topic concept in Japanese. It's standard? it's grammatical?


1 Answer 1


It's common to drop an obvious subject (usually a first or second person one) in everyday spoken English.

This has nothing to do with topicalisation. We can topicalise in English:

My dog, I usually pet it.

but we can't then drop the subject.

  • I would prefer "As for my dog, I usually pet it."
    – user3169
    Jul 6, 2016 at 16:47
  • Umm, if someone asked me "What is the first thing you do in the morning?" I would most definitely not reply with "My dog"
    – Kevin
    Jul 6, 2016 at 16:59
  • Ok, you confirmed that dropping the subject is normal, but I'm not sure that topic like Japanese is the same than topicalisation. I realize i don't know enough about both. If dropping the subject is normal, It can be misunderstood like an imperative, right?
    – Iam Toad
    Jul 6, 2016 at 17:25
  • It's only in an informal spoken register where the subject can be dropped, so tone of voice will usually make the meaning clear. (But I recall an exchange from film or TV years ago "Have a headache?" "Thanks, I've already got one", where the second speaker misinterpreted "[Do you] have a headache" as an offer, "Have a headache".) I think topicalisation is very similar to the Japanese pattern. "Inu wa" is most generally translated as "as for my dog/your dog/the dog/dogs".
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 6, 2016 at 22:54
  • @user3169 The version with as for is the marked topic construction. The version without is left dislocation. It doesn't make sense to prefer one to the other without context, since they're both grammatical but aren't necessarily interchangeable.
    – user230
    Jul 6, 2016 at 23:18

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