Zero-marking in English is the indication of a particular grammatical function by the absence of any morpheme (word, prefix, or suffix). The most common types of zero-marking in English involve zero articles, zero relative pronouns, and zero subordinating conjunctions. Examples of these are I like cats (where the absence of the definite article the signals that cats is an indefinite reference whose specific identity is not known to the listener), that's the cat I saw, in which the relative clause (that) I saw omits the implied relative pronoun that that would be the object of the clause's verb, and I wish you were here, in which the dependent clause (that) you were here omits the subordinating conjunction that.
In some varieties of English, grammatical information that other English varieties typically express with grammatical function words or bound morphemes may be omitted. For example, where most varieties of English utilize explicit plural morphemes (e.g. singular mango versus plural mangoes), West Indian creole speakers refer to plural objects without such morphology (I find one dozen mango.).
The lack of marking to show grammatical category or agreement is known as zero-marking or zero morpheme realization. This information is typically expressed with prepositions, articles, bound morphemes or function words in other varieties of English.
The term zero article refers to noun phrases that contain no articles, definite or indefinite. English, like many other languages, does not require an article in plural noun phrases with a generic reference, a reference to a general class of things.
In English, the zero article rather than the indefinite article is often used with plurals and mass nouns (although the word "some" can function like an indefinite plural article):
The definite article is sometimes omitted before some words for specific institutions, such as prison, school, and (in standard non-American dialects) hospital.
The article may also be omitted between a preposition and the word bed when describing activities typically associated with beds.
Where a particular location is meant, or when describing activities that are not typical, the definite article is used.
The zero article is also used in instructions and manuals. In such cases, the references in the text are all definite, and thus no distinction between definite and indefinite has to be made.
The zero article is used with meals.
The zero article is used when describing calendar years.
The zero article is used before titles
There is variation among dialects concerning which words may be used without the definite article. Standard American English, for example, requires the before hospital.
English can omit the relative pronoun from a dependent clause in two principal situations: when it stands for the object of the dependent clause's verb, and when it stands for the object of a preposition in the dependent clause. For example:
Furthermore, English has a type of clause called the reduced object relative passive clause, exemplified by
Here both the relative pronoun "who" and the passivizing auxiliary verb "was" are omitted. This type of clause can cause confusion on the part of the reader or listener, because the subordinate-clause verb ("arrested") appears in the usual location of the main-clause verb (immediately after the subject of the main clause). However, this confusion cannot arise with an irregular verb having a past participle that differs from the past tense, as in
Often the subordinating conjunction that is optionally omitted, as in
in which the dependent clause (that) you were here omits the subordinating conjunction that.
Like many languages, English usually uses a zero pronoun in the second person of the imperative mood, as in
which also is occasionally expressed with the pronoun explicit (You go now).
Zero preposition refers to the nonstandard omission of a preposition.
In Northern Britain some speakers omit the prepositions to or of in sentences with two objects.
Many English speakers omit prepositions entirely when they would otherwise be stranded at the end of a sentence containing a relative clause. This may result from the long-standing but disputed rule against ending a sentence with a preposition. Although such omissions are non-standard, they are not associated with any particular dialects.
Zero past marking is the absence of the past marker "ed" occurring in some nonstandard dialects of English, such as Caribbean English. Instead of an ending, the past is dealt with in other ways. The feature leads to sentences like this:
Zero plural marking is the absence of the plural markers "s" and "es" occurring in some nonstandard dialects of English, such as Caribbean English. The plural is instead marked by an article or number. This leads to sentences like:
In grammar, zero plural also refers to the irregular plural where the singular form and the plural form are the same i.e. I have one sheep OR I have two sheep.
Zero possessive marking is the absence of the possessive marker "'s" in some nonstandard varieties of English, such as African American Vernacular English leading to sentences like:
Zero third person agreement is the absence of the third person forms of verbs ending in "s" and "es" occurring in some nonstandard dialects of English, such as African American Vernacular English. This feature is widely stigmatized as being a solecism.