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In some languages we can remove the subject (and sometimes a verb too) from a sentence. In Toy Story 3, the kid says "Coming!" instead of "I am coming!" to her mother.

My questions are:

  • 1.) Can I say "Coming!" instead of "I am coming!" in English?

  • 2.) If I can, when can I remove the subject and verb?

  • 3.) And would this be considered standard English?

(NOTE: The OP is asking about "ellipsis of subject pronoun + auxiliary", which is a topic that comes up often on grammar and linguistics forums/sites. It is a good question. -- F.E.)

  • This is NOT a duplicate of the question in that link. Please reopen this question as I was in the middle of answering it. – F.E. Mar 29 '14 at 2:40
  • Hey OP, it might be faster if you copy the info in your post into a new question. Then I'll try to rush over and give you an answer . . . – F.E. Mar 29 '14 at 3:04
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    Hey! It's undeleted, @F.E., sharp and quick as a razor, post your answer now. :) – Mari-Lou A Mar 29 '14 at 19:16
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    FE, you should now yell out "Coming !!" – Fattie Mar 30 '14 at 7:45
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QUESTION: Can I say “Coming!” for “I am coming!”, and why?

In some languages we can remove the subject (and sometimes a verb too) from a sentence. In Toy Story 3, the kid says "Coming!" instead of "I am coming!" to her mother.

My questions are:

  • 1.) Can I say "Coming!" instead of "I am coming!" in English?

  • 2.) If I can, when can I remove the subject and verb?

  • 3.) And would this be considered standard English?

= = = ANSWER = = =

Your question is asking about "ellipsis of subject pronoun + auxiliary", which is a topic that comes up often on grammar and linguistics forums/sites. It is a good question.

So, instead of saying:

  • "I am coming!"

we often simply say:

  • "Coming!"

What has happened is that the pronoun "I" and the auxiliary verb "am" has been ellipted out. This kind of ellipsis, where the subject pronoun and an auxiliary is omitted, is part of the bigger topic of ellipsis.

Instead of having me bumble about and perhaps mis-speak here and there, allow me to type in here some related excerpts from a reputable grammar source, such as the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL), pages 1540-1.

CGEL, section "7.8 Further cases of ellipsis", subsection "7.8.1 Ellipsis of grammaticised words at the beginning of a main clause", page 1540:

A range of grammaticised items, such as personal pronouns and auxiliaries, can be omitted from the beginning of a main clause in casual style. In general, this type of ellipsis in not dependent on the presence of an antecedent.

(a) Ellipsis of personal pronoun subject

[73] i. Hope you're right. Can't think what I was doing. -- [I]

. . .

This occurs mainly with 1st person I and the dummy pronouns it and there, as in these examples. . . .

That section had good info, but allow me to skip ahead to the part that is related to your specific example. On page 1541:

Ellipsis of subject pronoun + auxiliary

[74]

i. Glad you think so. Never seen anything like it! -- [I + am/have]

ii. Strange how the ants come in when it's about to rain. -- [It + is]

The omitted material is shown on the right. The most likely pronoun is 1st person I or dummy it, while the most likely auxiliary is be. Perfect have is retrievable in [i] by virtue of the past participle seen. Sorry is particularly common here: Sorry to have kept you waiting. Without a complement and used as an apology, sorry is hardly to be regarded as elliptical: its status is comparable to that of thank you.

And so, you can see that your example fits into that above category ([74.i]), where the subject pronoun and auxiliary is ellipted: "I am coming!" ==> "Coming!"

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    +1 for saving the useful question! Another +1 for a useful answer - 'no reputation' for the one or the other - but added glory nonetheless :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jun 4 '14 at 13:23
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You may say Coming instead of I am coming. This is applicable whenever the subject is implicit or understood. If my mom calls out for me from the kitchen, it's understood that I will be coming, so I could as well omit I am. Hence you may omit the subject I and the verb am in here.

It doesn't convey any additional information after all and sometimes using it would only make the user all the more anxious about it as illustrated below.

For instance if someone I care for is in a hospital and I ask the doctor as to how that person's condition is; if the doctor starts his response by saying "She/he is ...." I couldn't help but contemplate the various possibilities in my mind- Is he/she going to say that the person is severely ill or is he/she going to give me the good news? Instead if the doctor simply responds by saying "Critical" or "Out of danger", thus doing away with the subject and even the verb if it can be dropped and gives me the "useful" information right away I'd be much thankful as I already know who we are talking about.

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