Explanations » B2 Grammar Explanations » Ellipsis and substitution – Omitting or replacing words
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  • Ellipsis

    ALT Text: Grammar chart explaining the use of ellipsis in English, specifically how to omit repeated subjects, adjectives, adverbs, and verb phrases to avoid redundancy.

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    Repeated subject or subject + auxiliary verb

    After and, but, and or, we can leave out a repeated subject or a subject + auxiliary verb.

    • He closed the door and (he) took off his shoes. 
    • We could go out or (we could) have a party at home.
    • She called, but (she) didn’t leave a message. 

    Repeated adjective or adverb after be

    • They say he is the best right now, but I don’t think he is (the best).
    • Although it seems far, it isn’t (far).

    Repeated verb phrase

    After the same auxiliary/modal

    We can avoid repeating an adjective, a verb, or a verb phrase and repeat only the auxiliary or modal verb.

    • Maria should take the exam, but I don’t think you should (take the exam).
    • She’ll go to the meeting, but I won’t (go to the meeting). 

    After a different auxiliary/modal

    We can also omit a repeated verb phrase when we use a different auxiliary or modal verb.

    • I’m studying for the exams, but not as much as I should (be studying).  
    • I told you I’d help you, but I can’t (help you).

    We may need to leave two auxiliaries to express past meaning in the second clause or sentence.

    • She didn’t win, but she could have (won). 
    • ‘Did you go?’ ‘No, but I should have (gone).’ 

    With do/does/did when there is no auxiliary verb

    Use do/does/did in the second clause or sentence when the verb is present or past simple.

    • She doesn’t like it, but I do.
    • She liked it, but I didn’t.  

    After to-(infinitive)

    This is called a reduced infinitive. It’s when you leave out a repeated infinitive or infinitive verb phrase after to.

    • I shouldn’t go out tonight, but I really want to (go out). 
    • ‘Are you going to sell the car?’ ‘No, I‘ve decided not to (sell the car). ‘


    Grammar chart explaining the use of substitution in English, specifically how to replace repeated words and phrases to avoid redundancy.

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    One, ones

    We can use one to avoid repeating a singular countable noun, and we can use ones to avoid repeating a plural noun.

    • ‘Do you need a pen?’ ‘No, I’ve already got one.’
    • ‘Which car do you prefer?’ ‘I like the red one.’
    • Will you wear these trousers or the ones that I gave you?
    • I’d lend you a pen, but this is the only one I have.

    Do so

    We can use do so (or does so, did so, doing so, etc.) to avoid repeating a verb phrase.

    • If I can help, I’ll be happy to do so. (=to help)
    • I won’t apologise because doing so would be admitting that I was wrong. (=apologising)

    We can also use do it/that (more informal) instead of do so.

    • They told me to be quiet, and I did it/that/so.

    If so, if not

    We can use if so/if that is so (positive) or if not (negative) to avoid repeating a clause in a conditional sentence.

    • Do you want to be better at what you do? If so, pay attention to what I have to say. (=If you want to be better at what you do)
    • Mr Chen should be there when you arrive. If not, just give me a call. (=If Mr Chen isn’t there when you arrive)

    Using so and not as substitutes for clauses

    We use so after certain verbs of thinking and speaking to avoid repeating a positive clause. This use is common with the verbs assume, believe, expect, guess, hope, imagine, presume, suppose, suspect, say, tell sb, think and the expressions be afraid, and it seems/appears.

    • ‘Are they coming?’ ‘I think so.’ (=they are coming)
    • ‘I didn’t do it.’ ‘If you say so.’ (=that you didn’t do it)
    • ‘Is she going to be there?’ ‘I hope so.’ (=she’s going to be there)

    When we want to avoid repeating a negative clause, we can use a positive verb + not or a negative verb + so.  We can use either of those forms with the verbs appear, seem, and suppose.

    • ‘Did they leave a copy of the key?’ ‘It doesn’t seem so/It seems not.’

    We usually use a positive verb + not with be afraid, assume, guess, hope, presume, and suspect.

    • ‘Shall we go for a run tomorrow?’ ‘I’m afraid not. I have to be at the office all day.’

    We normally use a negative verb + so with believe, expect, imagine, and think.

    • ‘Will it take long to fix it?’ ‘I don’t think so.’

    So, neither

    We can use so and neither + auxiliary + subject to avoid repeating a clause when we are agreeing with someone.

    • ‘I can be there at any time tomorrow.’ ‘So can I.’ (=I can be there at any time tomorrow too.)
    • ‘I shouldn’t take the offer, and neither should you.’ (=and you shouldn’t take the offer either.)

    If there is no auxiliary verb in the first clause or sentence, we use do/does or did.

    • ‘I love this book.’ ‘So do I.’
    • ‘We arrived on time, and so did all the other guests.’