ellipsis (leaving words out)

We often leave words out when the meaning is clear without them.

  • At the beginning of a sentence
  • In an informal style, we often leave out articles (the, a/an) possessives (my, your etc), personal pronouns (/, you etc) and auxiliary verbs (am, have etc) at the beginning of a sentence.

      Car’s running badly. ( = The car’s . . . )
      Wife’s on holiday. ( = My wife’s . . . )
      Couldn’t understand a word ( = I couldn’t understand . . . )
      Seen Joe(= Have you seen Joe?)
  • With and, but and or
  • If the same word comes in two expressions that are joined by and, but or or, we can usually leave out the word once.

      He sang and (he) played the guitar.
      Would you like some tea or (some) coffee? young boys and (young) girls in France and (in) Germany He opened his eyes once, but (he) didn’t wake up.
      We can leave out more than one word.
      She washed (her jeans) and ironed her jeans.
      You could have come and (you could have) told me.
  • After auxiliary verbs
  • We can use an auxiliary verb instead of a complete verb, or even instead of a whole clause, if the meaning is clear. The auxiliary verb usually has a ‘strong’ pronunciation.

      ‘Get up.’ I am /asm/.’ ( = I am getting up.”)
      He said he ‘d write, but he hasn’t ( = . . . hasn’t written)
      I can’t see you today, but I can tomorrow.
      ‘You’re getting better at tennis.’ ‘Yes, i am ‘
      I’ve forgotten the address.’ ‘So have I. ‘
      ‘You wouldn’t have won if I hadn’t helped you. ‘ ‘Yes I would In clauses without an auxiliary verb, we can use do instead of repeating a verb or clause.
      She likes walking in the mountains, and I do too.
  • After as and than
  • We can leave out words after as and than, if the meaning is clear.

      The weather isn ‘t as good as last year. ( = • as good as it was…)
      I found more blackberries than you. (= • than you found.)
  • Infinitives
  • We can use to instead of repeating a whole infinitive.

      ‘Are you and Gillian getting married?’ ‘We hope to
      I don’t dance much now, but I used to a lot.
      To is not necessary after conjunction + want/like
      Come when you want. I’ll do what I like. Stay as long as you like.