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Pro is a pronoun without phonetic properties. An empty category, specified as [+pronominal,-anaphoric] by the binding theory. Pro can be a subject in pro-drop languages, such as Italian.

In Chomskyan syntax, pro (also called little pro, to distinguish it from PRO in speech) is a null pronoun-like noun phrase that differs from PRO in that it occurs in a position where it can get Case. Little pro is often said to be licensed by rich agreement.


Spanish viene '(he) comes' is analyzed as pro viene.

pro in (i)b (which only exists in underlying structure) is interpreted as the subject.

(i) a  Piero conosce bene Maria
       Piero knows Maria well
    b  pro Conosce bene Maria
       He knows Maria well

Pro must be licensed. A pro subject is licensed by (morphological) agreement features. It is claimed that pro may occur in object positions in Italian.


pro was introduced by Chomsky 1981, as an abbreviation of pronoun.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Chomsky, Noam A. 1981. Lectures in Government and Binding. Dordrecht: Foris.
  • Chomsky, N. 1982. Some concepts and consequences of the theory of government and binding, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Rizzi, L. 1986. Null Objects in Italian and the Theory of pro, Linguistic Inquiry 17, pp. 501-557