Elliptical (incomplete) sentences



Морфология. Синтаксис





ББК 81.2 Англ.

К 85

Н. А. Кобрина, Е. А. Корнеева, М. И. Оссовская, К. А. Гузеева


К 85 Грамматика английского языка: Морфология. Синтаксис. Учебное пособие для студентов педагогических институтов и университетов по специальности № 2103 "Иностранные языки". - СПб., СОЮЗ, 1999. - 496 с.


ЛР № 065425 от 30.09.97 ISBN 5-87852-108-3


Пособие представляет собой второе дополненное и переработанное издание ранее изданного курса практической грамматики в двух частях - Морфология (М., Просвещение, 1985) и Синтаксис (М., Просвещение, 1986).

Пособие было допущено Министерством просвещения СССР в качестве учебного пособия для студентов педагогических институтов по специальности №2103 "Иностранные языки".



Кафедра грамматики английского языка Минского ГПИИЯ;

профессор М. Я. Блох (МГПИ им. В. И. Ленина)


Авторы уделяют особое внимание тем грамматическим явлениям, которые не имеют аналогов в русском языке.


Оригинал-макет Подготовила   К. П. Орлова


  © Н. А. Кобрина, Е. А. Корнеева, М. И. Оссовская, К, А. Гузеева © "СОЮЗ", 1999 © В. А. Гореликов, оформление обложки, 1999  


Новелла Александровна Кобрина, Елена Александровна Корнеева,

Мария Ильинична Оссовская , Ксения Александровна Гузеева



Морфология. Синтаксис


Учебное пособие


Подписано в печать 25 июля 1999 г. Формат 70х1001/16.

Гарнитура «Таймс». Бумага офсетная. Печать офсетная.





Syntax is the part of grammar which deals with sentences and combinability of words. The core of syntax is the study of the sentence. Syntax embraces on the one hand the structure of the sentence, that is, its components, their structure and the relations between these components, and on the other hand structural and communicative types of sentences.



§ 1. Anything that is said in the act of communication is called an utterance. Most utterances are sentences, although there are some which are not sentences and are called non-sentence utterances. Thus utterances fall into two groups: sentences and non-sentence utterances.

Sentences may be regarded from the point of view of their structure and their communicative value.

Structural classification of sentences


§ 2. From the point of view of their structure, sentences can be:

1.Simple orcomposite (compound and complex).

2.Complete orincomplete (elliptical).

3.Two-member (double-nucleus) orone-member (single-nucleus).


These three classifications are based on different approaches to the structural organisation of sentences and reflect its different aspects.

The difference between the simple sentence and the composite sentence lies in the fact that the former contains only one subject-predicate unit and the latter more than one. Subject-predicate units that form composite sentences are called clauses.


Honesty is the best policy. (one subject-predicate unit)

Still waters run deep. (one subject-predicate unit)

You can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink, (two subject-predicate units, or two


You never know what you can do till you try. (three subject-predicate units, or three clauses)


The difference between the compound and complex sentence lies in the relations between the clauses that constitute them (see § 137, 138, 144).


Complete and incomplete (or elliptical) sentences are distinguished by the presence or absence of word-forms in the principal positions of two-member sentences.

In a complete sentence both the principal positions are filled with word-forms.


When did you arrive?

I came straight here.


In an incomplete (elliptical) sentence one or both of the main posi­tions are not filled, but can be easily supplied as it is clear from the context what is missing.


Cheerful, aren’t you?


Could’ve been professional.

Wrong again.


Elliptical sentences are typical of conversational English. One-member and two-member sentences are distinguished by the num­ber of principal parts (positions) they contain: two-member sentences have two main parts - the subject and the predicate, while one-member sen­tences have only one principal part, which is neither the subject nor the predicate.

Two-member sentences:


The magpie flew off.

We are going to my house now.

One-member sentences:


An old park.


Low tide, dusty water.

To live alone in this abandoned house!




Two-member sentences


§ 3. The basic pattern of a simple sentence in English is one subject-predicate unit, that is, it has two main (principal) positions: those of the subject and of the predicate. It is the pattern of a two-member sentence. There are several variations of this basic pattern, depending mainly on the kind of verb occupying the predicate position. The verb in the predicate position may be intransitive, transitive, ditransitive or a link verb.

Here are the main variants of the fundamental (basic) pattern:


1. John ran.

2. John is a student.

3. John is clever.

4. John learned French.

5. John gives Mary his books.


6. John lives

in London. there

7. We found John guilty.

8. We found John a bore.


The basic pattern may be unextended or extended.

Anunextended sentence contains two main positions of the basic pattern, that of the subject and tlie predicate.


Mary laughed.

Mary is a doctor.

Mary is happy.


An extended sentence may contain variousoptional elements (including attributes, certain kinds of prepositional objects and adverbial modifiers).


John ran quickly to me.

My friend John is a very kind student.

Mary laughed heartily at the joke.


Obligatory extending elements are those which complete the meaning of other words, usually verbs, or pronouns, which without them make no or little sense. Therefore obligatory elements are called complements.


John learned French. (the meaning of “learned” is incomplete without the object “French”)

John gives Mary his books. (the meaning of “gives Mary” conveys different meaning without the object

“his books”)

John lives in London, (the meaning of “lives” is incomplete without an adverbial of place)


One-member sentences


§ 4. One-member sentences in English are of two types:nominal sentences andverbal sentences.

Nominal sentences are those in which the principal part is expressed by a noun. They state the existence of the things expressed by them. They are typical of descriptions.


Nominal sentences may be:


a) unextended.

Silence. Summer. Midnight.


b) e x t e n d e d.

Dusk - of a summer night.

The grass, this good, soft, lush grass.

English spring flowers!


Verbal sentences are those in which the principal part is expressed by a non-finite form of the verb, either an infinitive or a gerund. Infinitive and gerundial one-member sentences are mostly used to describe different emotional perceptions of reality.


To think of that!

To think that he should have met her again in this way!

Living at the mercy of a woman!


Elliptical (incomplete) sentences


§ 5. A two-member sentence may be either completeorincomplete (elliptical). An elliptical sentence is a sentence in which one or more word-forms in the principal positions are omitted. Ellipsis here refers only to the structural elements of the sentence, not the informational ones. This means that those words can be omitted, because they have only grammatical, structural relevance, and do not carry any new relevant information.

In English elliptical sentences are only those having no word-forms in the subject and predicate positions, i. e., in the positions which constitute the structural core of the sentence.

There are several types of elliptical sentences.


1. Sentences without a word-form in the subject position.


Looks like rain.

Seems difficult.

Don’t know anything about it.

2. Sentences without word-forms in the subject position and part of the predicate position. In such cases the omitted part of the predicate may be either a) an auxiliary verb or b) a link verb.


a) Going home soon?

See what I mean?

Heard nothing about him lately.

b) Not bad.

Free this evening?

Nice of you to come.

Susan’s father?


3. Sentences without a word-form only in part of the predicate position, which may be an auxiliary or a link verb.


You seen them?

Everything fixed?

You sure?

All settled.


4. Sentences without word-forms both in the subject and the predicate position. Such ellipses occur in various responses.


What time does Dave come for lunch? - One o’clock.

What were you thinking about? - You.

What do you want of us? Miracles?

Where’re you going? - Home.


5. Sentences without a word-form in the predicate position. Such ellipses occur only in replies to questions.


Who lives there? - Jack.

What’s happened? - Nothing.

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