I am finding there is a difference in what is acceptable between American and British English.

I posted this question on Facebook: "Grammar friends, I need your help! Is omitting the pronoun the second time it appears in a sentence acceptable? (I learned American English, not British English, and that is possibly where this debate is stemming from.)

Example One: "I am your friend and am seeking your help." Versus "I am your friend and I am seeking your help."

Example Two: "I need your help so am asking for your assistance." Versus: "I need your help so I am asking for your assistance.""

Can anyone provide clarity to this? My American friends say both are acceptable and my British friends say the second option in both examples is the only acceptable answer.

Thank you in advance for any help.

  • 1
    To my ears, the first option is perhaps acceptable, but the second one is certainly better. – Cerberus Oct 17 '18 at 4:03
  • As an American, I wouldn't say either in Example Two; I'd only ever say "I need your help so I'm asking for your assistance." Even in relatively formal writing, like a letter soliciting funds, the uncontracted version sounds unnatural to my ear. Possibly that's why the first option sounds OK to your American friends: it's closer in sound to the "I'm" version, even though it's further away grammatically. – 1006a Oct 17 '18 at 9:03
  • The whole BrE versus AmE thing here is just misguided. Of the differences that do exist, this simply is not one of them. In fact, it is completely irrelevant to any differences that might exist. – Lambie Oct 17 '18 at 12:50
  • Isn't it primarily to do with formality and style. Omitting the pronoun second time is more (informally) conversational. – Dan Oct 17 '18 at 13:42

Is omitting the pronoun the second time it appears in a sentence acceptable?

I doubt any AmE or BrE speakers would consider this type of ellipsis to be incorrect provided clarity is left intact.

"I am in trouble, and need help."

See answers at:
When is it correct to repeat the subject?
Is it always necessary to repeat the pronoun before each verb?

More interesting might be why your friends particularly objected to the ellipsis of the subject pronoun "I" in your particular example sentence.

Even more interesting to me is why eliding "I" after conjunction "and" sounds fine whereas eliding it after conjunction "so" sounds strange to me.

"so" and "and" are both coordinating conjunctions.

1. Together with or along with; in addition to; as well as.
American Heritage Dictionary

1.along with; in addition to
Collins English Dictionary

"so" is a conjunction that expresses consequence or result of a cause. Usually in the style of "(cause/reason), so "result/consequence. Example:

"I blew up my boss's office, so I was fired."

Your question of whether you can elide the personal pronoun "I" from the second clause has really got me stuck.

"I blew up my boss's office, so was fired." (sounds like an unnatural elision)

In the ELL answer I provided it says:

Since there is a coordinating conjunction between the two sentences, leaving out the pronoun is fine.
Subject pronoun ellipsis question

However it's nowhere as simple as that.

I managed to find a quote from Practical English Usage here in this forum thread:

Ellipsis is not normally possible after other conjunctions besides and, but and or.

However I don't find this to be a helpful rule either. To omit pronoun "I" after conjunction "so" sounds strange to me, but I don't know what the reason is. So I have made a list of sentences with ellipsis of the "I" pronoun. And here I am recognising conjunctions of different types as recognised on the Wikipedia article on conjunctions, ie., the distinction I make between coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions are as reflected in that article.

Using common coordinating conjunctions:

"I drink and (I) smoke." (sounds good)
"I drink, but (I) don't smoke." (sounds good)
"I either drink or (I) smoke." (sounds good)
"I drink, yet (I) don't smoke." (sounds good)
"I do not drink, nor (do I) smoke." (sounds acceptable)
"I do not drink, neither (do I) smoke." (sounds odd to me)
"I'm conscious about my health, so (I) do not smoke." (sounds odd to me)

Using common subordinating conjunctions:

"I drink after (I) smoke." (Bad)
"I drink before (I) smoke." (Bad)
"I volunteer because (I) care." (Bad)
"I am happy, since (I) am healthy." (Bad)

I can't think of a rule why omitting pronoun "I" after "so" isn't allowed or sounds strange. Hopefully someone else knows what the rule is.

I'd be interested to know if your friends who said your example was correct or wrong gave any reasons for their opinion.

  • @JohnGo-Soco You're most likely right. I'm not a good comma-placer, as I've seen different style guides prescribe different uses, and I get confused. Although as I understand it comma placement often is said to depend on whether a clause is independent or not, and seeing as many of my examples parenthetically omit the "I", the clause can either stand alone or not... I think. – Zebrafish Oct 17 '18 at 6:29
  • Thank you so much for your response. I thought you might find this interesting, it seems that the only issue is with (I) am. The question has garnered a lot of response, and it is split 50/50 AmE and BrE. Other verbs do not seem to cause the issue and neither does was. Any insight? – Brentb01 Oct 17 '18 at 15:49
  • @Brentb01 If you're saying that your results show that BrE speakers insist that the subject pronoun "I" must be repeated in the second clause for the first example ("and I am seeking your help"), this doesn't sound right to me. But I take your word for it. What seems to be strange is specifically the second example, which joins the two clauses with "so". I'm unsure about dropping "I" here. I have a feeling both BrE and AmE would have doubts about this. It seems that certain conjunctions either disallow the omission or make it sound strange. see the Practical English Usage quote in answer. – Zebrafish Oct 18 '18 at 0:49
  • @Brentb01 Actually if you're right about what you say, I'd be really interested in knowing why there might be a difference between BrE and AmE speakers in the case of "and (I) am seeking your help". – Zebrafish Oct 18 '18 at 0:52

It is important to be wary about differences between British and American English, as neither are fully consistent in this type of choice. To be valid, any such assessment would have to include a wide range and number of sources.

For example, I am British and I know that I use all the versions you list, depending on the context.

It is also worth remembering that our response to a sentence out of context is not always the same as when it is buried in a large text.

  • And then there are the regional variations, too! – John Go-Soco Oct 17 '18 at 6:20

First part, both are fine, but a comma is needed between "and" and "I." (compound sentence)

Next example, use 2nd version with a semi-colon between "help" and "so." These are really two sentences very closely related.

  • 1
    No, a comma should not go between "and" and "I". "I am your friend and, I am seeking your help" is wrong. And no, a semi-colon should not go between "help" and "so". "I need your help; so I am asking for your assistance" is not an improvement: it unnecessarily separates the subordinate clause. – Chappo Oct 17 '18 at 9:37
  • Sorry, comma between "friend" and "and." (Compound sentence) Since short, comma optional. – Les Tivers Oct 18 '18 at 19:06
  • Les, when you propose corrections to a user's grammar or punctuation, it's important to provide evidence (e.g. references to grammar texts or online guidance) to support your position. This ensures authoritative answers the community can rely on. There are many users on this site who earn a living from their expertise in English - linguists, grammarians, professional writers, copy editors - and who greatly value good answers, but will quickly downvote poor or inaccurate answers such as this one. – Chappo Oct 18 '18 at 22:25
  • I need your help; therefore I am asking for your assistance. Can't imagine no semi-colon here or with the similar "so." – Les Tivers Oct 20 '18 at 10:43

In parallel constructions, we can often omit identical parts the second time. All these are correct, it seems to me:

I went to the store then I went to the park.

I went to the store then went to the park.

I went to the store then to the park.

I went to the store then the park.

For your question itself: I advise you to omit the second "I" only if it is clearly parallel to the first "I". In expample 1, "I am ... I am" clearly parallel. In "I blew up ... I was" the parallelism is less clear. And in "I'm conscious ... I do not" parallelism is even less clear.

  • This is a good answer up to the last two sentences, but I'm struggling to work out where "blew" and "conscious" came from. Did you add them as your own examples? If so, you may need to unpack them further, as the explanations aren't clear. Also, can you provide a link to "parallel construction" for those who want to understand this better? – Chappo Oct 18 '18 at 22:34
  • Some of my examples are from the Zebrafish answer. – GEdgar Oct 18 '18 at 23:54

In the first pair the second sentence is acceptable as you have two different types of the predicate. The first one is a complex predicate, the second one is a simple predicate. As the predicates are not homogeneous we can not omit the subjects in both clauses.

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