The first person singular verb conjugation in the present tense is always different from other verb conjugations, so why the need to use "Я" at all in those cases?

For example, can't you just say "Занимаюсь" instead of "Я занимаюсь"?

7 Answers 7


There are indeed some languages where there is a stable tradition of skipping of personal pronouns, especially when you can deduce all relevant information from the verb conjugation. Romance languages are nice example of this.

But even in such languages it is not absolutely inappropriate to use personal pronouns. For example, you almost always say te quiero in Spanish, but saying yo te quiero wouldn't be a linguistical offense.

In Russian it is almost opposite: though personal pronouns are used in the majority of cases, form without pronouns is also 100% appropriate and understandable. But definitely untypical. You are asking why, but it is exactly that case when we can confidently name cultural tradition as main reason.

Yet, there are some features of Russian languages that give us hints why impersonal form had not became dominating. First, in past tense verb form is not so informative. Saying just занимался can be both он занимался, я занимался and ты занимался. Любили stands for они/мы/вы любили. And it is not that typical to have completely different approaches in constructing the sentence regarding which tense is used.

Second, there is such thing in Russian like неопределённо-личные предолжения. In such sentences, there is a subject of the action implied, though this subject is not mentioned directly in order to make the notion of action itself more valuable. So, actually, some verbs are without personal pronoun in some well established contexts and, thus, such verbs have different meaning in personal and impersonal form. Classical example of such pair is говорят/они говорят.


You can omit any pronoun with a verb in any tense when answering a question that contains a subject. Asking questions without a pronoun is also natural in dialogs:

— Где-нибудь был вчера? — Да, в кино ходил. — А завтра что собираешься делать? — Дома останусь, скорее всего.

Also, when someone has power over you, he can omit pronoun, usually in past tense, when giving an order or asking something in a rude form. For example, your sergeant can say something like

— Подошли ко мне, быстро! — Упал-отжался! — Куда собрался?


— Что ты делаешь во вторник вечером?

— Занимаюсь английским языком.


— Давай встретимся во вторник вечером.

— Я занимаюсь английским языком.

You shouldn't omit first person pronoun when giving an indirect answer.


Like many other languages, Russian has many traits borrowed from its neighbours throughout its history.

Traditionally, two European languages has been influencing Russian with their paradigms. These languages are German and French.

Both canonical structures in German and French require mandatory pronouns in 1st.p. sg. indicative (alongside with other grammatical persons), although both languages distinguish personal verb forms.

Therefore personal pronouns are required in official/'underlings' ' speech styles.

In conversational/patronising speech style the pronouns may be omitted as a sign of 'rustic', or 'rude' style (see the samples given), or as markers of shorter social distance.

  • +1 Indeed in the informal speech "я" is often omitted. F.e. Иду однажды по лесу, вижу, гриб стоит. It happens not only in answers to questions where the subject can be guessed but just because the form of verb sufficiently indicates the 1st person singular.
    – farfareast
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 2:33

You can safely omit Я when answering a question:

-Чем ты сейчас занимаешься?

-Сигареты не найдётся?
-Не курю

In other cases it's common not to skip Я.


I think that using 'I' in English is the way more common that using 'Я' in Russian.

I have to say 'I think yes', I can't just say 'think yes', in Russian you can say 'думаю, да'.

In most cases you say Я with endings of some of the words you use in your sentence, so if you have verbs with correct endings you can omit Я.


These usages have slightly different semantic meanings. Omitting the first person pronoun kind of implies that the answer is related o the question, while the presence of such pronoun means the answer is not related to the question.

Suppose a telephone call:

-Ты уже выполнил моё задание?

-Занимаюсь(, скоро закончу)

This is kinda implies he is doing the task now.

-Ты уже выполнил моё задание?

-Я занимаюсь( с преподавателем)

This kinda implies he cannot do the task right now because he is doing his homework or studies.

-Скорее приезжай в офис

-Еду в метро(, скоро буду)

This kinda implies he is currently goes to the office by metro.

-Скорее приезжай в офис

-Я еду в метро(, давай поговорим позже)

This kinda implies he cannot talk because of the noise or bad connection because he is in metro.

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