Please explain an "elliptical" sentence. Is it used as a shortcut of implied ascription?

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    Check your spellings. Do some homework. Show the results. If you still have an issue, try asking first on English Language Learners -- on ELU questions of elementary nature or general reference may promptly get closed or worse, down voted.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 13:11
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    Did you mean en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipsis_%28linguistics%29 ?
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 13:19
  • . . . a thinly veiled Hermionism. Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 14:10

3 Answers 3


An ellipsis is an omission of a logically and/or grammatically necessary element from a sentence. Don't confuse this omission with the identically-named punctuation, which indicates omission. An elliptical sentence is one where an element has been left out, but the logic and meaning of the sentence remains clear. These are the dogs I want to train. Here is a perfectly fine sentence with two subjects and two verbs that in no way are compounded; it almost seems to consist of two independent clauses. What it obviously means is "Here are the dogs that I want to train. The relative pronoun that was elided, left out, in the first example making it an elliptical sentence. (Just to confuse matters, this kind of an ellipsis (omission) does not require an ellipsis (punctuation). I suspect that you've asked you question because of the confusion the use of one word to mean two related, but different, ideas has caused. The answer posted before this one seems to be talking about a third meaning of ellipsis, a rhetorical tool where a portion of the narrative left out for practical, stylistic or other reasons.


Just as you might describe the shape of an ellipse as a form turning back on itself, so that it heads in no particular direction, so does an elliptical sentence work: Such a sentence does not yield its meaning immediately, as say, a pointed sentence might. When one is being elliptical, one is being obscure, and hard to parse.

For example: Suppose you did not want to attract the attentions of censors and officious power brokers—often found prospering under totalitarian regimes—when writing about topics and ideas that interest you. A geneticist trying to communicate to another one about science in Lysenkoist Russia, perhaps. If you needed to refer to these censors, and their community, you might be elliptical or indirect in your references and writings, so that you might speak your mind, freely, right under their noses.

Whatever an elliptical sentence is, it's not a shortcut of "implied ascription." That is a terse sentence; in fact, your definition seems fairly antonymic to me.

  • Seems to be a bit obscure itself "...he is stronger than I." seems merely fewer words to ascribe something alost in a shorthand wat but not obscure
    – user59181
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 12:41
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    In all of that you haven't given an example of an 'eliptical sentence'.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 13:10
  • "Ellipsis" is not a helpful term, since it simply means "leaving something out". Leaving things out usually results in an ungrammatical utterance; but under the appropriate circumstances, it may be the result of one or more of a large number of syntactic rules that delete specific material, under specific circumstances, either optionally or obligatorily. None of these qualifications are helped calling it "elliptical"; on the contrary, giving it a pseudoscientific Greek name is sposta mean one understands it, than which nothing can be further from the truth. Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 19:45

An elliptical sentence, when all is said and done, leaves out an otherwise necessary element from your sentence: Ready when you are. After you!

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