Substitution and ellipsis

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a brief grammar description of how substitution and ellipsis works in the English language

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Substitution and ellipsis

  1. 1.  We can use the pronouns ONE/ONES after adjectives or demonstratives. I’d like a sweet sherry and John would like a dry one. We don’t use ONE for uncountable nouns. I really like sweet sherry but my husband prefers dry (sherry)
  2. 2.  We can also use the demonstrative pronouns without ONE/ONES. Which colour would you prefer for your room, this one or that? We can also replace a noun or noun phrase with a quantifier, e.g. some, all, each, none, either, neither, both, a few…. All the pupils did the exam but only some passed.
  3. 3.  We can use a form of do to avoid repeating a present or past simple verb. They live very near to where I do. We can also use it to avoid repeating the main verb in coordinate clauses. Mark phoned the police and I did too.
  4. 4.  With coordinate clauses where the action is the same in both, we can also use so/neither+ auxiliary+subject. Mark phoned the police and so did I. This pattern can be used to agree in short answers. I didn’t watch telly last night. Neither did I.
  5. 5.  In informal speech, we can omit do and use the object pronoun with too, neither, nor. I didn’t watch telly last night. Me neither/ nor me Usinga form of do is common in comparison clauses. Men don’t work in the home as much as women do.
  6. 6.  We can use the three patterns to replace a verb phrase which describes a single, specific action. (so is more formal) Mary stood up to leave and just as she was doing so/it/that she slipped and fell. We usually use do it/that when the subject of the verb changes. The shop assistant couldn’t get hold of the shoplifter. Were the police able to do it/that?
  7. 7.  We prefer to use do so when we talk about an activity rather than a single, specific action. People would like to smoke in public places but they are banned from doing so. We use only do to replace verbs which refer to events outside our control, e.g. believe, lose, forget… He told her not to forget his phone number but she did.
  8. 8.  We can verbs like expect/think/believe/imagine with so to avoid repeating thepreceding information. Will they be coming to our party? I expect so. To express a negative purpose, most verbs make the verb negative and use so: imagine, think, expect, suppose, believe. Will they be coming to our party? I don’t think so.
  9. 9.  Some verbs, however, use only not: be afraid, guess, hope, suppose. Will they be coming to our party? I guess not. We substitute if clauses with if so, and if not. They will find the restaurant easily; if not, they can always ask a passerby.
  10. 10.  We can use so at the beginning of a short answer when we agree to a statement with a certain amount of surprise. I won the jackpot in the lottery! So you did!
  11. 11.  We often omit nouns or pronouns in the second of two coordinate clauses. I went to the bar and (I) asked for a beer. We do not leave out pronouns in subordinate clauses. I went to the bar and (I) asked for a beer because I was thirsty.
  12. 12.  We can omit a verb to avoid repeating it. Coffee appeals to young people and tea to the elderly. Generally we do not omit the auxiliary or modal. Was it a good idea to buy that flat? I think I shouldn’t/ I think I shouldn’t have.
  13. 13.  We can introduce a new modal in order to add interpretation. Has the boss arrived? It’s ten o’clock. He must have. Ifthe comparison clause begins with a pronoun and we omit the verb phrase, we use the object pronoun rather than the subject pronoun. You certainly are more intelligent than her.
  14. 14.  We can omit an infinitive phrase when the meaning is clear. Although Mary has tried hard to stop smoking, she hasn’t been able to. After most verbs which are followed by to+infinitive such as forget, ask and promise we can omit to. Did you buy the presents? I forgot (to).
  15. 15.  Afterwant and would like in if or wh- clause we can also omit to. Leave the stuff wherever you want (to).

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