Published: 04th June 2018
The Ellipses is called the Economist of the English language. Find out why!
Albert Rayan elaborates on Ellipses in the English language - to avoid using unnecessary repetition of words
In my column last week, I discussed the difference between formal and informal English and the need for using informal language in situations that involve our family, friends, and people we know well. Informal language is characterised by particular choices of grammar and vocabulary, contractions, and ellipsis. Let me discuss ellipses (the plural of ellipsis) in this week’s column.
Ellipses is the omission of a word or a group of words which we normally use in sentences to make the sentences grammatically correct. Even if there is an omission, the meaning can be understood from contextual clues. Why ellipses? The main purpose is to avoid the unnecessary repetition of words. Look at the sentences below:
1) If it is possible, please meet me at 8 o’clock.
2) I know that he will definitely meet me at 8 o’clock.
In the examples above, even if the words in bold are omitted while speaking or in writing, the one who receives the message can understand it based on the context. Here are the elliptical sentences:
1) If possible, please meet me at 8 o’clock.
2) I know he will definitely meet me at 8 o’clock.
In some ‘that-clauses’, ‘that’ can be omitted as in the examples below:
1) She knew (that) he would not come to the airport to see her off.
2) I am glad (that) she has performed well in all her exams.
In coordinated clauses connected with and, but and or, it is not necessary to repeat the subject (I, we, he, she, it, they,…) or certain words/phrase as in these examples:
1) They went to a restaurant and later (they) went to a movie.
2) I met him on a couple of occasions but (I) don’t have his contact details.
In some cases, the complement of a verb can be left out when it is clear what the complement is. Look at these examples for a clearer picture:
A: Does your son want to study abroad?
B: He doesn’t want to (study abroad). He thinks India is the best place.
A: Doesn’t your wife want him to move to the US?
B: She doesn’t want him to (go to the US). She also thinks India is the best place for him.
A: Why don’t you ask him again whether he is interested in going to the US?
B: I’d better not (ask him). He is quite clear about his plans.
In some informal situations, the subject pronoun ‘I’ can be omitted, especially at the beginning of a clause.
1) (I) Wonder where John and Mary are at this moment.
2) (I) Hope you have a nice trip to Kashmir.
A third person pronoun (he, she, it, they) can be omitted at the beginning of a clause in informal conversation as in the examples below:
1) I met John and Mary at the reception. (They) Said they would visit us soon.
2) John was happy. (He) Said he got a promotion last week.
3) Is the dog okay? (It) Didn’t come out.
4) Seems like a brilliant idea.
5) Sounds great.
In informal conversation, when we ask questions to another person/persons in the conversation, the auxiliary verb can be omitted:
1) (Have) You completed the project?
2) (Are) You going to write to him?
3) (Is) Janet presenting a paper at the conference?
The articles (a/an, the) can be omitted when they are obvious from the context and when they are used at the beginning of a sentence:
1) (The) Guest is in the other room. If possible, meet him now.
2) (A) Pen, please.
An ellipsis (…) is also a piece of punctuation. It can be used to indicate a pause or a gap in a piece of text. It is also used to signal to the reader that something is missing. Example:
1) I don’t know when… but I’ll meet them again.