Ellipsis in English (Definition, Types, Uses and Examples)

Ellipsis in English (Definition, Types, Uses and Examples)

Ellipsis is a device we use from time to time in our utterances or writings. This post Ellipsis in English (Definition, Types, Uses and Examples) focuses on this commonly used devices. Shakespeare once wrote, ‘When sorrows come, they come…in battalions’. The full realisation of that quotation is this: ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, /But in battalions’.

Ellipsis Meaning

What does ellipsis mean or how do we define it? Ellipsis is one of the processes a sentence passes through to give us a minor sentence. Ellipsis refers to the process of omitting or deleting an item or items from a clause or a sentence.

Word Omission

Some people refer to ellipsis as word omission. Such omissions (of one or more words that are obviously understood but that must be supplied to make a construction grammatically complete) or deletions are normally implied by the context of situation.

Three Dots

We represent ellipsis using three dots when we omit a text in the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence or quotation. The three dots are standard and universal. Ellipsis is one of the punctuation marks.

Ellipsis in English (Definition, Types, Uses and Examples)

Having considered the meaning of ellipsis, let us see some examples, types and uses of ellipsis…

Ellipsis Examples in Sentences

  • The man went out and washed his clothes. (“the man” has been deleted to avoid tautology)
  • Sorry for the inconveniences. (The subject “I am” has been deleted and it is used for the sake of convenience)
  • You can fool all the people some of the time…but you cannot fool all the people all of the time. (‘You can fool some of the people all of the time’ has been deleted)
  • Deliver us from evil…forever and ever, Amen. (‘For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory’ is omitted).
  • Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are…like a diamond in the sky. (‘up above the world so high’ has been omitted)

Types of Ellipsis

There are two types of ellipsis; these are Linguistic Context and Social Context. Let us see these two types…

Linguistic Context

This depends very much on the linguistic context; that is the deletions are shown by what went before which you are not interested in repeating. Let us see some examples:

  • The Vice Chancellor has promised not to expel the errant students, so we are sure he won’t. (‘expel the errant students’ is deleted)
  • The Mobile Communication Network has threatened to block all unregistered mobile lines and from all indications, they will. (‘block all unregistered mobile lines’ has been deleted)
  • We have come this far to recover the personal effects of Mr. Johnson and we must make sure we do. (‘recover the personal effects of Mr. Johnson’ is deleted)
  • He plans to run for the second term in office and as things are, he will. (‘run for the second term in office’ is deleted)
  • Parents should not allow their children to succumb to peer pressure; good parents will ensure they never allow their children to. (‘succumb to peer pressure’ is deleted)

Social Context

This is the ellipsis that depends on the social context for instance the speaker’s convenience. Let us take some examples that are based on familiarity:

  • Angry with me? (“Are you” is deleted – Are you angry with me?)
  • Coming tonight? (“Are you” is deleted – Are you coming tonight?)
  • Got something to eat? (“Have you” is deleted – Have you got something to eat?)
  • Got some cash to spare? (“Have you” is deleted – Have you got some cash to spare?)
  • Have anything doing tonight? (“Do you” is deleted – Do you have anything doing tonight?)
  • Care for some? (“Do you” is deleted – Do you care for some?)
  • Mind tagging along? (“Would you/Do you” is deleted – Would you mind tagging along?)

Uses of Ellipsis

We can use ellipsis in direct speech to show a speaker’s hesitation or that he has left some things unspoken. For instance: “I don’t know… I’ll try… I can’t promise anything.” We can also use ellipsis can be used to realise imperative sentences and minor sentences. See Types of Sentences in English. You can also read on Minor Sentences. Let us check some examples:

Minor Sentences

  • Trump off to London. (President Trump is off to London)
  • No plans to sell the building. (There are no plans to sell the building)
  • United Bank for Africa… Africa’s Global Bank. (United Bank for Africa towers high as Africa’s Global Bank)
  • Skye Bank…Expanding your world. (At Skye Bank, it is all about expanding your world)
  • Unity Bank…succeeding together. (Succeeding together with you is our goal in Unity Bank.
  • Access Bank…A Passion for excellence. (Access Bank exemplifies A Passion for excellence)

Imperative Sentences

  • Give me some food. (Jane, give me some food)
  • Answer two questions. (You are required to answer two questions)
  • Come back soon please. (Honey, come back soon please)
  • Step forward please. (Mr. Tom, step forward please)
  • Get this over with. (Sir, get this over with)


A lot of people use ellipsis without necessarily knowing what it really stands for. Many in an attempt to represent ellipsis use more than three dots. The standard representation of ellipsis is three dots as we have noted above. Do not forget that. Ellipsis also has to do with word omission and it is one of the punctuation marks in English. Take time to check out other educative posts on this platform and remember to share the posts on Akademia with your friends. You would definitely have made someone’s day! See you around…


    1. Thank you for your question. There is no ellipsis in the sentence and it is a compound sentence. However, the subject in the second clause ‘he’ is implied (a form of ellipsis).

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