Have you ever heard the term “pro-drop”? It stands for “pronoun-drop” and it’s a grammatical concept that some languages have. Pro-drop might seem like something really small, but learning about it and how to use it will make you feel and sound a little more like a native speaker. Keep reading to learn about it.
What is “pro-drop”?
Pro-drop is where you drop the pronoun in a sentence. You might be thinking, “How can you do that? Then you wouldn’t know who is doing the action!” And you’re right! There are certain times when you will need a pronoun to help you. However, some languages, like Spanish, don’t need a pronoun all the time. English, on the other hand, always needs a pronoun, so pro-drop doesn’t happen in English. Let’s take a look at what happens in a sentence in English and Spanish:
I speak Spanish.
Yo hablo español.
In both of these sentences, there is a pronoun. In English, it’s I, and in Spanish, it’s yo. However, in Spanish, I could also write the sentence this way:
In this sentence, there isn’t a “yo”, but the sentence is still completely grammatically correct.
Why doesn’t Spanish always need to include pronouns?
Think back to when you learned about conjugation in Spanish. Do you remember how many forms there are in each tense? There are 6! In Spanish, since there are so many types of conjugation, unlike the 2 there are in English, the verbs show who is doing the action clearly. Therefore, the ending of the verb is enough to know who is doing the action. Take a look at these sentences below. Can you tell who is doing each action?
Compras mucha ropa.
Hacemos la tarea.
Vivís en Valencia.
The subjects for these are tú, nosotros, and vosotros, and you can tell just based on the endings! There’s no need to include the subject pronoun.
When does Spanish include pronouns?
Sometimes, it’s not clear who is doing the action. This is because él, ella and usted all have the same conjugation, and ellos, ellas and ustedes use the same conjugation. So, sometimes you need to include the pronoun to clarify who is doing the action. For example, in the following sentence, it’s not clear who the subject is:
Come a la 11 de la mañana.
Unless you already established who you’re talking about, you’ll probably need to include the subject so it’s clear who is eating at 11:
Ella come a la 11 de la mañana.
Now, it’s clear that we’re talking about her.
In addition, native speakers will also include pronouns in order to emphasize who is doing an action. Although you could say hablo español, if someone asks who in the room speaks Spanish, you might want to emphasize “yo hablo español” to add emphasis.
We hope this helped you see that in Spanish, unlike English, you don’t need to use a pronoun every single time. As you’re learning, it’s okay to use pronouns more often to help you conjugate! Once you get the hang of conjugation, try out pro-drop to take your Spanish to the next level.