After reading the comments and answer for this post, I have realized that the best (and/or maybe the only) way to master elliptical structure is seeing and examining more examples in this subject.

I have found out that we can have many examples of elliptical structure in coordinate structures, such as

I ask you to do something, and you ask me to do something .

However, I have been notified that the following example cannot be linguistically acceptable:

He studies books about mathematics, and she studies books about physics.

(Please note that in above examples the elided words are indicated with subscripts.)

After observing the former typical example, I expected we can have the latter one. Can anyone explain why I should not have expected this typical example?


It may be needed to explain why I have mentioned that the second example may not be linguistically correct.

I have been notified that there exists a view stating that for gapping structure the elided material should not reduce a major constituent; by constituent of a sentence I mean the largest sequence of words that can be replaced by a single part of speech: a noun, a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. Now, in the sentence “She studies books about physics”, “books about physics” is the major constituent, so according to the mentioned view it should not be reduced by elision.

Now, my question is:

Is the above view globally acceptable among all English writers and linguists?

  • Please note that my native language is very different from English and I am learning the basics of English, so please excuse me if I cannot convey the main idea of my question. Please also note that I am only interested in formal English, so please answer my question with respect to this fact. – Later Mar 30 '19 at 13:13
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    This is called 'gapped coordination' (or 'gapping'). In your second example the coordinates have parallel structures and is acceptable. The antecedent of the gap is "studies books". – BillJ Mar 30 '19 at 14:02
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    There is nothing wrong with either sentence. – Jason Bassford Mar 30 '19 at 14:31
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    @Later I'm not aware of such a restriction. I'd be inclined to ignore it. – BillJ Mar 31 '19 at 14:28
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    @Later Globally acceptable? How can we possibly answer that? The examples you provided are certainly grammatical, but speakers have their preferences, and some may prefer to avoid complex cases of gapping. – BillJ Mar 31 '19 at 14:37

Whether your second is acceptable is a matter of opinion, I'm afraid. I'd say it's fine, but I know others who say that you shouldn't omit both the verb and the main noun of the subject, or that you shouldn't omit the main word of the subject if you are including an adjectival about it. Your stated rule is based on the idea that you shouldn't omit part of the subject. All of them amount to the same thing here. For people who object in that way, you would use:

He studies books about mathematics, and she studies books about physics.

This is definitely a matter of opinion, but if someone objects to your version, this may be why. I would say they were being excessively stuffy and insisting on rules that someone made up one day, personally, but maybe they are someone you have to satisfy. I think the one with books repeated reads worse, personally, but you have to do what you have to do, sometimes.

The sorts of view that lead to objecting to your second example are not reflected among all speakers of English. Any descriptive linguist would therefore conclude that such a rule does not exist, however logical it might be to have it. You will find that it is not usual to insist on that sort of rule - but if someone with specific authority over you and your work insists on it, it might be easier just to let them have their way.

  • Thank you for your excellent answer. I have updated my answer; I will be glad to know your opinion. According to your answer, I expect that your answer would be negative, right? – Later Mar 31 '19 at 14:01
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    @Later: I've expanded my answer. – SamBC Mar 31 '19 at 14:21
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    @Later Personally, I think the sentence sounds worse if you omit only the one word. It has a more natural flow if both are omitted, and I have no problem at all with understanding the meaning. – Jason Bassford Mar 31 '19 at 14:28

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