English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I found the following sentence used in emails at my workplace:

If any problem, please call me at XXX-XXXXXXX.

Is the sentence grammatically correct? Or should the senders have used the following instead:

If there is any problem, please call me at XXX-XXXXXXX.

share|improve this question
Of all the natively acceptable ways of eliding words, 'If any problem...' is not one of them (you really hardly ever drop the verb or 'there is'). – Mitch Jan 24 '12 at 17:07
up vote 6 down vote accepted

This omission of syntax in informal speech (and especially emails) is quite common and I would hesitate to call it ungrammatical. It is an example of ellipsis:

ellipsis |iˈlipsis| noun ( pl. -ses |-sēz|)
the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues. [NOAD]

The point is, you did understand from the context of the sentence what the sender intended. Certainly you would not want to write that way in formal prose, but the criteria I would use to judge the usage here would be

  1. Is the meaning readily understood?
  2. Does the text need to convey good communication skills?

If you can answer yes to the first and no to the second, then you don't have to worry about using ellipsis in the communication.

share|improve this answer
Problems? Call XXX-XXX-XXX. – Lie Ryan Jul 13 '11 at 15:36
@Lie: Call XXX-XXX-XXXX. – Mehrdad Jul 13 '11 at 16:06

Yes, you are correct. The first clause in the sentence is ungrammatical because it lacks a verb. It looks like laziness on the writer's part when they should have said if there is any problem, or if you have any problems.

share|improve this answer
Or In case of any problems – shinynewbike Jul 13 '11 at 9:56
I would guess "lack of understanding" (due to English-as-a-second-language) rather than laziness. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jul 13 '11 at 17:32

protected by RegDwigнt Jul 12 '12 at 9:06

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.