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A New English Grammar Course Book

Lecture 38 Ellipsis Like substitution, ellipsis is also a grammatical device for avoiding repetition and achieving textual cohesion. If substitution is the replacement of an identical item by a substitute, ellipsis means omission of the item or replacement of the item by a zero substitute. As ellipsis and substitution perform the same function, they are, in many cases, interchangeable, eg:
A: Which do you prefer, the red or the green scarf? B: Id like the red (scarf). Id like the red one.

When an identical item is omitted or replaced, an attention is focused on the neighbouring element. Therefore, ellipsis and substitution are also means of emphasis. 38.1 Ellipsis in coordinate constructions Ellipsis is most frequently found in coordinate constructions-in compound sentences, coordinate noun phrase, and coordinate prepositional phrase. 1) Ellipsis in compound sentences In a compound sentence, an identical subject in the second coordinate clause is usually omitted. If the second clause has a different subject but an identical operator, the subject is retained but the operator omitted, and this kind of omission is sometimes accompanied by that of neighbouring auxiliaries, eg:
John must have been playing football and Mary (must have been) doing her homework.

If the second coordinate clause has an identical subject and an identical main verb, both the subject and the main verb can be omitted, eg:
His suggestion made John happy but (his suggestions made) Mary angry.

If, on the other hand, the second clause has a different subject but an identical predication (that is, an identical main verb + complementation), one of the predications can be left out either in the first coordinate clause or in the second, eg:
George will take the course and Bob may (take the course). George will (take the course), and Bob may, take the course.

If the second clause has an identical subject and an identical operator + predication but a different adverbial, the subject and the predication can be omitted, while the adverbial should be retained together with the operator, eg:
John will meet my family tonight and (John) will (meet my family) again tomorrow.

If the second clause has a different subject and predicator but and identical object or subject complement, the object or subject complement in the first clause is usually left out, eg:
John like (Mary), but Peter hates, Mary. George was (angry), and Bob certainly seemed, angry.
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A New English Grammar Course Book


Ellipsis does not occur with be, have or do if they are used as auxiliaries in one clause and as main verbs in the other. Likewise, the auxiliary be cannot be omitted if it forms the passive in one clause and the progressive in the other, eg:
Mike was exasperated, and was the first guest to leave. Jane was terrified and was clutching my hand.

2) Ellipsis is noun phrases If two coordinate noun phrase in the form of determiner + premodifier + noun are identical in headwords, it is normal for one of the headwords to be ellipted. What, then, remains of the elliptical noun phrase will only be determiner + premodifier. Note the ellipsis of the second headword:
She wore the red dress, but the blue suits her better. What is the difference between a direct question and an indirect? Old (men) and young men were invited. Revolution means a moral (change) as well as material change.

There is no ellipsis of headword, however, if the coordinate modifiers describe the qualities of one and the same object, eg: Honest and clever students always succeed. Ellipsis of the noun headword is not limited to coordinate construction. This kind of omission is likely to occur in non-coordinate noun phrase. It is found in independent genitive and in some idiomatic expressions, eg:
The old man breathed his last. He ventured into the unknown. Williams is an old television.

3) Ellipsis in prepositional phrases When two or more prepositional phrase are identical in complementation, it is usually the complementation of the first phrase that is omitted, If, on the other hand, the prepositions are identical, it is the first preposition that is left out, eg: A government of and by and for the exploiting classes cannot be popular among the people. I have heard (about) and read about your adventures. 38.2 Ellipsis in complex sentences In complex sentences, ellipsis commonly occurs in subordinate clauses, while in main clauses only the initial elements are likely to be ellipted. 1) Ellipsis in main clauses In informal style, the initial elements of some utterances are often omitted. This kind of ellipsis is independent of the context, and therefore is called situational ellipsis, eg:
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A New English Grammar Course Book


(Im) Sorry Ive kept you waiting so long. (It is) No/ Small wonder they all loved the boy dearly. In informal style, it is also possible for a whole main clause to be left out in cases where it is necessary to avoid repetition of the main clause, eg: A: Are you determined to go? B: Unless my parents do not approved of it. 2) Ellipsis in adverbial clauses Adverbial clauses generally admit of end deletion when they occurs after the main clause, eg: John will play the guitar if Mary will (pay the guitar). When two coordinate adverbial clauses are introduced by identical subordinators, the subordinator of the second clause can be left out, eg: If I can find the letter and (if) you are interested in it, Ill let you have it. If two coordinate adverbial clauses are identical in everything expect the subordinator, we may keep the first subordinator and omit the rest of the first clause or keep the second subordinator and leave out the rest of the second clause, eg: I am prepared to meet them when (they like) and where they like. They will be arriving before the show begins or after (the show begins). Adverbial clauses of not admit of omission of the subject or that for subject + operator, but a non-finite or verbless clause with subordinator might be viewed as an adverbial clause with the subject and operator omitted, eg: While (I was) waiting, I was reading some old magazines. 3) Ellipsis in nominal that-clauses In compound-complex sentences, the identical predication of a nominal that-clause can sometimes be omitted, eg: Mike has prepared his lesson, but I know that Peter hasnt (prepared his lesson). In short responses such as I think not, I hope not, and Im afraid not, the negative word not here may be viewed either as a clausal substitute or as standing for an elliptical thatclauses, eg: A: Will it rain today? B: I hope (that it will) not (rain). If two coordinate that-clauses are identical in subject but different in predicate, the second that may be omitted together with the subject and operator of the second clause, eg: Tell him that I will call to see him and (that I will) have lunch with him.
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A New English Grammar Course Book


But in some contexts where the that-clause is itself a complex clause, the, omission of that will sometimes lead to ambiguity, eg: Tell him ( ) if he is at home Ill call to see him. 4) Ellipsis in nominal wh-clauses If the predicate of a wh-clause is identical with that of the main clause, the predicate of the wh-clause may be omitted, only with the wh-word retained, eg: Someone has used my car, but I dont know who (has used my car). If the predicator of the wh-clause is in the passive voice, the whole clause may be omitted only with the by-phrases retained, eg: The cup was broken by someone, but I wonder by whom (the cup was broken). If two coordinate clauses are introduced by identical wh-words, the wh-word of the second clause is usually omitted, eg: I noticed how Mary talked to them and (how) they answered her. If, on the other hand, two coordinate wh-clauses are identical in subject and predicate but different in wh-word, the first clause may be omitted except the wh-word, eg: I dont when (I shall meet him) and where I shall meet him.

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