- How many grammatical persons are there in Persian?
- How many conjugation endings are there in Persian?
- Why is Persian called a pro-drop language?
Conjugation endings attach to verbal stems to form different tenses for different grammatical persons. There are three grammatical persons in Persian: first person, second person and third person. Each grammatical person can be singular or plural. For example, first person singular (I) and first person plural (we). Therefore, there are six grammatical persons altogether. These grammatical persons can be abbreviated as 1S, 2S, 3S, 1P, 2P, 3P. For example, 2S means second person singular, 3P means third person plural and so on.
There are two sets of conjugation endings: past endings and present endings. They only differ in third person singular (3S):
|Past Endings||Present Endings|
The past ending for third person singular is null (empty). It means that nothing is added to the stem. An empty ending indicates the person of the verb is third singular because all the other persons have a non-empty ending.
Conjugational endings are enclitic. That is, contrary to a suffix, they are unstressed and do not shift the stress position to the last syllable, which is the normal stress position in Persian. Therefore, the stress falls on the preceding syllable. For example, look at the conjugation of نوشتن (neveshtan) in past simple tense.
In English, we can't omit the subject pronoun in "I wrote" and say "wrote" because the person of the verb becomes unclear. In Persian, each person has a unique conjugation ending. That is, conjugational endings convey the person and the number of the verb. For example, in نوشتم (neveshtam), the ending -am indicates that the person of the verb is first person singular (I).
Languages that have this feature are called pro-drop (pronoun-dropping) or more precisely, a null-subject language. In Persian, subject pronouns are not normally used. We say نوشتم (neveshtam) instead of من نوشتم (man neveshtam). The latter is only used when we want to put some emphasis on the grammatical person. Spanish and Italian are also null-subject languages.