Is it correct to omit the subject of a subordinate clause if it coincides with the subject of the main clause, for example,

I felt drowsy when (I) woke up?

Can you give me a reference to the rules?

  • 1
    You can, but not like that. "I feel drowsy when getting up" is what native speakers would say, but in the simple present or past tense you would need to repeat the subject.
    – Robusto
    Sep 17, 2015 at 13:45
  • 2
    That's probably because the answer is "You must repeat the subject" but a participle like getting doesn't take an explicit subject ("I getting") so that can't and that's the exception.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 17, 2015 at 13:47
  • @Robusto, thank you, but I rather meant "I felt drowsy after awakening". (There is not always a nice noun like this one)
    – se0808
    Sep 17, 2015 at 14:09

2 Answers 2


This is one of the big differences between tensed and untensed subordinate clauses. There are two untensed types -- infinitive clauses and gerund clauses -- and both can often appear without subjects, but only by one of the various rules that achieve that effect.

The subjects, even if they aren't present, are still understood, and they aren't always the same as the subject of the matrix predicate, either. Everything depends on the predicate of the superordinate clause and the syntactic rule being applied.

However, this is only true of untensed clauses. Tensed subordinate clauses like when I woke up or which didn't appeal to me or that I realized who he was can't delete their subjects under any rule. Tensed clauses must have subjects; this is why rules like Extraposition leave a dummy subject behind (it in the case of Extraposition) to keep the tensed verb company.

Some examples of the kinds of rules and the untensed clauses they apply to, with solved exercises, can be found here.


You can say:

I woke up feeling drowsy

but omitting the subject directly doesn't seem correct English.

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