Ellipsis

What Is Ellipsis?

Ellipsis (etymologically from the ancient Greek word élleipsis, literally “omission”), is the omission of expected word(s) or short phrase that might be needed to complete a sentence, but not necessarily required to convey the sense. A successful occurrence of ellipsis usually necessitates the following:

  1. To achieve its purpose, ellipsis relies on cognizance of the audience; the reader or listener to consciously recognize and fills in the missing unit.
  2. Missing words may pose a little surprise; the after effect may be a moment of emphasis on the omission.
  3. With the missing words, a sense of brevity may be achieved with more verve and elegance
  4. Ellipsis is ignited as a result of a subsequent phrase borrowing a word from an earlier one. The effect of this can be to tie the two phrases together more closely and establish a stronger connection between them.

Practical Examples

Example I: Ellipsis of the Article
  • A man and woman.
  • The normal sentence:
  • A man and a woman.
  • The day, month, and year.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • The day, the month, and the year.
  • She gave me an apple and pear, for a fig and orange.
  • The normal sentence will be:
  • She gave me an apple and a pear, for a fig and an orange.
Example II: Ellipsis of the Noun
  • I gave out one of my shirts.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • I gave out one shirt of my shirts.
  • Andy bought a dozen wine.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Andy bought a dozen bottles of wine.
  • Bad actions mostly lead to worse .
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Bad actions mostly lead to worse actions.
  • Every moment subtracs from what it adds to our lives.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Every moment subtracts from our lives what it adds to our lives.
  • The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser .
  • The normal sentence is:
  • The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser idiot.
  • Conscience, I say; not thine own , but of the other.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Conscience, I say; not thine own conscience, but the conscience of the other.
Example III: Ellipsis of the Adjective

The ellipsis of the adjectives is also possible and can occur in the following patterns:

  • There are subjects proper for the one, and not for the other.
  • The normal syntax is:
  • There are subjects proper for the one, and not proper for the other.
  • A just weight and balance are the Lord's.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • A just weight and a just balance are the Lord’s.
  • Bad actions mostly lead to worse .
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Bad actions mostly lead to worse actions.
  • Every moment subtracs from what it adds to our lives.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Every moment subtracts from our lives what it adds to our lives.
  • The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser .
  • The normal sentence is:
  • The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser idiot.
  • Conscience, I say; not thine own , but of the other.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Conscience, I say; not thine own conscience, but the conscience of the other.
Example IV: Ellipsis of the Pronoun
  • Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Leave thou there thy gift before the altar, and go thou thy way; first be thou reconciled to thy brother, and then come thou and offer thou thy gift.” — Matt. V, 24
  • Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Love ye your enemies, bless ye them that curse you, do ye good to them that hate you.” — Matt. 5: 44.
  • Chastisement does not always immediately follow error, but sometimes comes when they bestow, than upon those they receive.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • “Chastisement does not always immediately follow error, but it sometimes comes when which they bestow, than upon those which they receive.” — Art of Thinking, Pg. 48.
  • Wisdom and worth were all he had.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • “Wisdom and worth were all [that] he had.” — Allen’s Gram., Pg. 294.
Example V: Ellipsis of the Verb
  • The world is crucified unto me, and i unto the world.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • “The world is crucified unto me, and I am crucified unto the world.” — Gal., 6:14.
  • Hearts should not , though heads may, differ.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • “Hearts should not differ, though heads may, differ.” — Dillwyn
  • Are ye not much than they ?
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Are ye not much than they are? — Matt., 6:26
  • Tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience; and experience hope.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Tribulation worketh patience; and patience worketh experience; and experience worketh hope.” – Rommans, 5:4.
  • Wrongs are engraved on marble; benefits on sand.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Wrongs are engraved on marble; benefits are engraved on sand.” — Art of Thinking
Example VI: Ellipsis of the Participle
  • His knowledge measured to his state and place, His time a moment, and a point his space.
  • The normal sentence:
  • His knowledge [being] measured to his state and place, His time being a moment, and a point being his space.” — Pope
  • Animals of various natures, some adapted to the wood, and some to the wave.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • “Animals of various natures, some adapted to the wood, and some adapted to the wave.” — Melmoth
Example VII: Ellipsis of the Adverb
  • He can do this independently of me, if not of you.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • He can do this independently of me, if not independently of you
  • She shows a body rather than a life; a statue, than a breather.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • She shows a body rather than a life; a statue, rather than a breather.
Example VIII: Ellipsis of the Conjunction

The repletion of the conjunction is called Polysyndeton; and the omission of it, is Asyndeton.

  • But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, faith, meekness, temperance.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, and joy, and peace, and long suffering, and gentleness, and faith, and meekness, and temperance.” — Gal., 5:22.
Example IX: Ellipsis of the Preposition
  • It shall be done this very day.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • It shall be done on this very day.
  • We shall set off sometime next month.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • We shall set off at sometime in next month.
  • We walked a mile.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • We walked through a mile.
  • He was banished the kingdom.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • He was banished from the kingdom.
  • He departed this life.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • He departed from this life.
  • He gave me a book.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • He gave to me a book.
Example X: Ellipsis of the Interjection
  • Oh! the frailty, the wickedness of men.
  • Oh! the frailty, oh! the wickedness of men.
  • Alas for Mexico! And for many of her invaders.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Alas for Mexico! And alas for many of her invaders!
Example XI: Ellipsis of Phrases or Clauses
  • The active commonly do more than they are bound to do; the indolent less .
  • The normal sentence is:
  • The active commonly do more than they are bound to do; the indolent commonly do less than they are bound to do.
  • Young men, anggry, mean less than they say; old men, more .
  • The normal sentence is:
  • Young men, angry, mean less than they say; old men, angry, mean more than they say.
  • It is the duty of justice, not to injure men; of modesty, not to offend them.
  • The normal sentence is:
  • It is the duty of justice, not to injure men; it is the duty of modesty, not to offend them.