1.18 Omitted Words

Some languages, especially those that make greater use of inflection, do not include all the sentence parts that English includes. Take special care to include those English parts that you might not be used to including in your native language. The following table shows some of these words that are needed in English but not in other languages.

Sentence Parts

Language Issues


Neither Chinese nor Arabic includes articles, such as a and an, so people with Chinese or Arabic as a first language have to take great care to learn to use articles correctly.


Many languages have verb tense setups that vary from English, so most new English learners have to be very careful to include auxiliary verbs properly. For example, Arabic does not include the verb “to be,” so native speakers of Arabic who learn English have to take special care to learn the usage of “to be.” An Arabic speaker might say, “The girl happy,” instead of, “The girl is happy.”


Spanish and Japanese do not include a subject in every sentence, but every English sentence requires a subject (except in commands where the subject youis understood: “Go get the box”).


Inverted English sentences can cause problems for many new English speakers. For example, you could say, “An apple is in the refrigerator.” But in typical English, you would more likely say, “There is an apple in the refrigerator.” This version is an inverted sentence, and “there” is an expletive. Many new English learners might invert the sentence without adding the expletive and say, “Is an apple in the refrigerator.”


Neither Chinese nor Thai includes plurals, but English does. So many new English learners have to take great care to differentiate between singular and plural forms and to use them at the appropriate times.

Subject pronouns

In Spanish, the subject pronoun is often not used, so Spanish speakers learning English will often omit the subject pronoun, saying, “Am hungry,” instead of, “I am hungry.”


Adapted from Appendix A, “Writing for Nonnative English Speakers” in Writer’s Handbook v 1.0  used according to Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

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