1. meaning.
Ellipsis is the omission from a sentence of words which are normally needed to complete the grammatical construction or meaning. It occurs most often in everyday speech, in expressions such as Told you so (= I told you so) and Sounds fine to me (= It or that sounds fine to me), and also occurs regularly in all kinds of spoken and written English.
2. idiomatic ellipsis.
Ordinary English grammar normally calls for the omission of certain elements, especially when they might otherwise be repeated from a previous occurrence in the same sentence. Examples are the definite article (He heard the whirr and ʎ click of machinery), the infinitive marker to (I was forced to leave and ʎ give up my work at the hospital), the subject of a verb (I just pick up wood in a leisurely way, ʎ stack it and ʎ slowly rake the bark into heaps), and the verb itself after to (Knowledge didn't really advance, it only seemed to ʎ) or after an auxiliary verb (We must ʎ and will rectify the situation). More complex forms of ellipsis occur in literature, often for special effect:

• Henriques knew they would eat his tongue for wisdom, ʎ his heart for courage and for fertility ʎ make their women chew his genitals —N. Shakespeare, 1989.

Other examples are given by S. Greenbaum, Oxford English Grammar (1996), 77–8.
3. unacceptable types.
The extent to which English allows words to be omitted in these ways is determined by what can reasonably be supplied by the hearer or reader from the rest of the sentence, without causing ambiguity or confusion. Ellipsis is not possible when the omitted word is not identical in form and function to its role where it is present, as in ☒ No state has λ or can adopt such measures, in which the word to be supplied is adopted, not adopt. Nor is it permitted when there is a change from active to passive in an omitted verb, as in Our officials ought to manage things better than they have been, in which the word to be supplied is managed, not manage; nor again when the construction changes, as in The paintings of Monet are as good ʎ or better than those of van Gogh, which should read…are as good as or better than those of van Gogh. Less obviously wrong, but best avoided, are cases where number (singular / plural) changes, as in Fowler's characteristically gruesome example The ring-leader was hanged and his followers λ imprisoned (with ellipsis of were).
4. omission of that in relative clauses.
See that 3b.
5. ellipsis in non-standard speech.
Ellipsis of auxiliary verbs such as can, do, and have is a feature of non-standard speech in AmE:

• Well how you expect to get anywhere, how you expect to learn anything? —E. L. Doctorow, 1989

I haven't seen you all summer, where you been at? M. A. Dante, 2004.

6. punctuation mark.
Ellipsis is also used to mean a punctuation mark consisting of (usually) three full points to mark either a pause or the intentional omission of words (for example in quoting). When the omission comes at the end of a sentence, it is normal to add a fourth point to mark the full stop.

Modern English usage. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • ellipsis — 1560s, an ellipse, from L. ellipsis, from Gk. elleipsis a falling short, defect, ellipse, from elleipein to fall short, leave out, from en in + leipein to leave (see RELINQUISH (Cf. relinquish)). Grammatical sense first recorded 1610s …   Etymology dictionary

  • ellipsis — [e lip′sis, ilip′sis] n. pl. ellipses [i lip′sēz΄, ə lip′sēz΄] [L < Gr elleipsis: see ELLIPSE] 1. Gram. the omission of a word or words necessary for complete grammatical construction but understood in the context (Ex.: “if possible” for “if… …   English World dictionary

  • Ellipsis — El*lip sis ([e^]l*l[i^]p s[i^]s), n.; pl. {Ellipses} ([e^]l*l[i^]p s[=e]z). [L., fr. Gr. e lleipsis a leaving, defect, fr. ellei pein to leave in, fall short; en in + lei pein to leave. See {In}, and {Loan}, and cf. {Ellipse}.] 1. (Gram.)… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ellipsis — ► NOUN (pl. ellipses) 1) the omission of words from speech or writing. 2) a set of dots indicating such an omission. ORIGIN Greek elleipsis, from elleipein leave out …   English terms dictionary

  • Ellipsis — For other uses, see Ellipsis (disambiguation). Not to be confused with Ellipse. … Ellipsis …   Wikipedia

  • ellipsis —  An ellipsis (sometimes called an ellipse) is used to indicate that material has been omitted. It consists of three evenly spaced periods (...) and not, as some writers think, a random scattering of them. When an ellipsis occurs at the end of a… …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • ellipsis —    An ellipsis (sometimes called an ellipse) is used to indicate that material has been omitted. It consists of three periods (...) and not, as some writers think, a random scattering of them. When an ellipsis occurs at the end of a sentence, a… …   Dictionary of troublesome word

  • ellipsis — UK [ɪˈlɪpsɪs] / US noun [uncountable] Word forms ellipsis : singular ellipsis plural ellipses UK [ɪˈlɪpsiːz] / US [ɪˈlɪpˌsɪz] linguistics the practice of leaving a word or words out of a sentence when they are not necessary for understanding it …   English dictionary

  • ellipsis — el•lip•sis [[t]ɪˈlɪp sɪs[/t]] n. pl. ses ( sēz). 1) oce gram. gram. the omission from a sentence or other construction of one or more words understandable from the context that would complete or clarify the construction, as the omission of been… …   From formal English to slang

  • ellipsis — noun (plural ellipses) Etymology: Latin, from Greek elleipsis ellipsis, ellipse, from elleipein to leave out, fall short, from en in + leipein to leave more at in, loan Date: 1540 1. a. the omission of one or more words that are obviously… …   New Collegiate Dictionary