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there is this sentence in a dialog: 好 , 我走了 , 有时间到我家去 . 再见 ! (from my beginner text book)

I do understand the translation. Well, I'm going, if you have time, come to my home. Goodbye.

However, though I knew all the words, I couldn't understand the sentence before I could read the translation. And even now, I'm left puzzled wondering: 你 doesn't appear anywhere in the sentence.

At first, I had translated for myself something like Well, I'm going, it's time going home / it's long going back home, with the 有 referring to 我 as the subject).

What are the elements to guess the 有 is referring to 你 implicitely ?

Also, would it be possible to say: 如果有时间 , 到我家去.

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You might want to take a look at this wikipedia article on pro-drop language. –  杨以轩 Nov 15 '12 at 4:16
    
thx for the link. really interesting. I'm not yet accustomed to pronoun dropping :-) –  Stephane Rolland Nov 15 '12 at 10:59

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

有时间 literally means just "have time". The subject is inferred pragmatically from the context.

In this sentence the inferred subject would be 我:

好 , 你走了 , 有时间到你家去 . 再见 !

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Ivan did a good job answering in that, in this example, it's all context based... just as all languages are.

It's kind of like: "Hey man, I'm bouncing. Stop by some time"

Whereby you can guess they mean: "Hey man, I'm bouncing. You should stop by some time"

You will find many more examples along your journey to learn Chinese where an expected subject is simply not there.

Like, given something as simple as: 走吧 This is a full statement with no subject... It could mean:

"Let's go"

"I'm gonna go"

"You should go"

It really depends on the context.

To answer your question: Also, would it be possible to say: 如果有时间 , 到我家去.... You should also get used to "的话" and "吧", which are often used at the end of a hypothetical or suggestion.

Example: 如果有时间的话, 你到我家去吧
         If you have time, you should come over!

Or maybe: 不及格的话, 我就完蛋啊 
          If I don't pass the test, I am screwed!
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Why need subject? It's a imperative. "有时间“ just modifies the sentence as a condition. Comparing with some English sentences:

Well, I'm going. Call me later.
Well, I'm going. Don't forget closing the door.

You don't need subject as well.

For you second question,

would it be possible to say: 如果有时间 , 到我家去.

It's rare to say like that. Firstly "如果” is unnecessary for short condition. Secondly saying that would sound very formal. The whole sentence itself is not formal. Actually it's not an invitation at all. It just express willing of friendship.

For real invitation, normally he will ask for your availability at first. For example, 下个星期有空吗?到我家去喝茶/吃饭

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Personally I find one thing odd about the sentence in question. It is written as:

好 , 我走了 , 有时间到我家去 . 再见 !

But if I were to say this, I think I would say this instead:

好 , 我走了 , 有时间到我家來 . 再见 !

It feels strange to me to invite someone to "go" to my house instead of "come" to my house. I'm not sure if that contributed to the difficulty of the new learner in understanding the sentence, but anyway that's my two cents worth.

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