I've read Practical English Usage by M. Swan to get the notion of ellipsis and find out whether it is possible to make a sentence below but I got to nowhere.

It ends with "very" and I'm not sure about its correctness.

He's careful but not very.

Instead of the common one:

He is careful but not very careful.

Please let me know whether it is common to end a sentence with "very" or "much" and how I can use ellipsis in such situations.


It's not very common, but people do it (and it is grammatically correct). I think it's a little more common in spoken English than in written.

(although I just did it in the sentence above)

As you noted, your example is shorthand for saying "He's careful, but not very careful". In that sentence, "very" is a modifier to "careful". If you leave off "careful", most English speakers will know what you mean by context.

As a side note, saying "He's careful, but not very" would make me think you were being casual/making a small joke. I think it's because the sentence ends in an adverb. If you were shooting for a serious tone, I'd say something more like "He isn't careful enough".

As for whether to use an ellipsis, I assume you mean:

  • "He's careful, but not very."


  • "He's careful, but not very..."

Both are valid, but they sort of have different meanings. The second one is less sure of yourself, and also more serious sounding (to me, at least). An ellipsis is how you write "this sentence kind of fades out, maybe somebody else can finish it."

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Your example sentence is fine. Very is an adverb here, modifying careful, and it's common to use an adverb at the end of a sentence or clause that talks about the way that something is happening. For example,

"He came quickly."

"She believed him, but not fully."

For even more examples, here's Oxford on adverb positions:


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  • @Nicholas Clark Thanks for your comments. is it possible to end the sentence with much like the following one: He's careful, but not much. which seems a bit odd in the full form: He is careful, but not much careful. – Amin Nov 10 '17 at 8:26
  • @Amin these should probably be on the other post. To answer your question about 'much', it doesn't work the same because 'much' isn't an adverb. 'Much' can modify a noun, but not a verb. – Nicholas Clark Nov 29 '17 at 21:08

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