In Ariana Grande's song off the table there's the verse:

Will I ever love somebody like the way I did you?

Can we use the auxiliary verb to replace a transitive verb like "love"? For example, consider the following:

- Do you love me?
- Yes, I do.
- Yes, I do love you.
- Yes, I do you.

The last variation, which looks like the verse used by Ariana, seems incorrect to me because I've never seen that before. Is that really incorrect?

2 Answers 2


I don't see any replacement happening here, but rather the word "love" is dropped and implied because of context.

"Will I ever love somebody like the way I did (love) you?"

A better grammarian can correct me, but I feel that this omission is legitimate because the subordinate clause, "like the way I did love you" shares the same verb as the main clause, "Will I ever love somebody". Since the subordinate clause is part of the same sentence, this works.

In the second example, you ask if this omission could survive beyond the sentence as a response to a question. I don't believe so, since the question asks after everything on the other side of "Do you 'x'". You could either omit all of "x", ("Yes, I do.") or restate the entire question in the affirmative ("Yes, I do love you."), but I don't think you would respond with fragments.


It is possible (as GC points out in another answer) that "did" functions as an auxiliary verb, with the main verb ("love") implied after it. However, rather than assume the emphatic aspect[1], it seems simpler to construe "did" as a pro-verb substituting for the main verb "loved". CGEL (Quirk et al.) mostly gives examples in which this "do" is followed by "it", "that", or "so", but there are also examples in which it is followed by adverb phrases, e.g. (section 12.62):

We paid more for the tickets this year than we did last year.

The example that you gave ("Do you love me?" "Yes, I do you.") sounds wrong because in such constructions we normally elide constituents that are similar to their predecessors. In this case, "me" in the first sentence and "you" in the second sentence refer to the same person, so the latter should be elided. We could keep the second direct object if it referred to a different person, e.g.: "You love him as I do you." That is what Ariana Grande is doing.

[1] CGEL might call this "quasi-ellipsis". Section 12.60 discusses that issue.

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