Sometimes I read people write without verb to be for example... Can we say my boy eating/ wearing without verb to be? If we say “he” we have to put “is” So what is the difference?

  • It's not generally acceptable. One example where it is is with constructions such as 'The knight, [being] a man of honour, allowed his opponent to pick up his sword.' Apr 3 at 13:10
  • 4
    Ah, to be or not to be -- that is the question!
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 3 at 13:16
  • Except in AAVE, it is not acceptable.
    – StephenS
    Apr 3 at 14:22
  • A clear duplicate: Omitting is in sentences when .... (zero copula / AAVE) Apr 4 at 10:01

This phenomenon is known as zero copula (also null copula). It is a feature of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), (example: Gwendolyn Brooks's poem "We real cool"), but it also occurs elsewhere in English. The main area of acceptance is in news headlines:

Police officer and suspect dead after latest Capitol attack

If you wrote that headline in standard English, filling in the missing syntactical elements, it would read something like "A police officer and a suspect are dead after the latest Capitol attack."

It also occurs frequently in simple questions where the context is understood or obvious. If you had an argument with someone, say, and wanted to check that there were no hurt feelings, you might say

"We good?"


"We OK?"

instead of the more standard "Are we good?" or "Are we OK?"

Despite the AAVE usage being obvious, there are fairly strict grammatical rules still associated with it. As the Yale Grammar Diversity Project website (YGDP ) notes:

Not all forms of the copula may be omitted in African American English; in fact, most forms of be must always appear. In general, is and are are the only forms that may be absent. Forms that can never be omitted include past tense was and were, the form be itself, and first person present tense am (’m).

The YGDP goes on to observe that the copula may never be omitted in clause-final positions:

I don't care what you are.

Simply saying "I don't care what you" would be unintelligible.

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