Ellipsis: using the omission style without blunder

Ellipsis is an intentional omission of a word or words that should originally (or grammatically) be in a sentence in a way that still makes the message clear. It is important to know how and when to use this style because not every unit in a sentence is removable. In this post, the omitted words are in square brackets [].

Ellipsis can either be textual or situational.

Textual ellipsis

Textual ellipsis is used when we understand a whole sentence easily due to the group of words used. Our knowledge of words that go together helps us to use or understand this style. It could occur in that-clause, clauses connected with coordinating conjunction (and, or, but) or in verb complement.


  1. I know [that] you’ve been there before now. (that-clause)
  2. They must come forward and [they] must be sincere. (after coordinating conjunction)
  3. My father wanted to go to the island but we didn’t want to [go to the island]. (verb complement)

Situational ellipsis

As implied, this ellipsis is used when a sentence is understood because of the situation in which it is used. It could be the omission of first or third person subject pronouns (e.g. I, they, we), subjects and auxiliary verbs (e.g. do we, we’ve, do you), auxiliary verbs in questions (e.g. do, have, is, are), articles (a, an, the) or first word of a fixed expression. However, this style of ellipsis is informal.

  • first and third person pronouns


  1. [I] Expected you to buy the white T-shirt.
  2. Mary came to the meeting. [She] Said the manager is on leave.
  3. Payet and Yvonne are engaged. [They] Told us about their plan to get married soon.
  • subjects and auxiliary verbs (statements and question tags)


  1. [Do you] Have the project topic?
  2. [We have] Done that over and over.
  3. [They were] Sitting when you walked in, weren’t they?
  4. [He] Couldn’t hold the plate, could he?
  • auxiliary verbs in questions


  1. [Do] You know how to install the software?
  2. [Is] Your mum aware of this?
  3. [Are] We going to the party?
  • articles


  1. He asked me what I wanted and I said [an] envelope.
  2. [The] Postman gave me the letter with a smile.
  3. [A] Vulture was hovering while we watched.
  • fixed expressions


  1. He can’t run fast. He’s [as] lazy as a pig.
  2.  [I] Can assure you that we’ll take care of everything.
  3. That’s a good thought. [The] Trouble is, he doesn’t like surprises.





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