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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 seen that we can have the following typical examples in elliptical structures:

I answered the question yesterday, and him answered the question today.

She made him angry, not him made her angry .

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

But, I expected that the following must be correct:

I answered the question yesterday, and he answered the question today.

She made him angry, not he made her angry .

Can any one help me to answer the following?

  1. Are the former typical examples correct? Why do we have such typical examples? Are English speakers free to use objective pronouns instead of subjective ones whenever they want?

  2. If all of them are correct, which form is more appropriate for formal writing?


Updated

For those who may claim that the above examples are absolutely incorrect I want to cite the following passage from Hudson’s article1(pages 61& 62):

”In particular, pronouns often appear in their non-subject form when they are in the subject position of a gapped conjunct: He likes her, and her, him. Some speakers say they prefer the subject form in such cases (He likes her, and she, him), but we simply do not know for sure who actually uses which form in speech ... The main fact is that non-subject pronoun forms are far more acceptable in subject position when they precede a gap than in other situations.”




1. Hudson, R. 1989. Gapping and grammatical relations. Journal of Linguistics 25, 57-94. One can read the article here.

  • 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 Apr 1 at 13:08
  • It is not clear to me what exactly you want to elide. I answered the question today, not him.That is elided but it is not formal. Your others are not right. On what basis are you saying they are typical examples? – Lambie Apr 1 at 15:52
  • @Lambie Thank you for your comment. I have updated my original post; I hope you find it helpful. – Later Apr 2 at 7:16
  • "He likes her, and her [or she], him." is 100% correct. "Her" is a direct object of likes. It's fine. BUT: In "Mary [she] made him [John] angry." make is a causative verb, and not him, her does not work there. Mary made John angry, not Sheila. And "I answered the question today, and he did yesterday." Or: "I answered the question today, not him." I hope you find this helpful. Leaving gaps is very complicated and I am not writing a book on it here. :) – Lambie Apr 2 at 15:42
  • John let Mary cut his hair, not Susie. John let Mary cut his hair, not her, him.=a no-go. Another causative example that would not work. It's best not to make comments "who claim the above examples are completely incorrect" when the examples are completely different than the quoted linguist's example. – Lambie Apr 2 at 15:45
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The first two examples are wrong—and they are wrong for the reason you indicate:

✘  Him answered the question today.
✘  Him made her angry.

In the elided phrases, it's the subjective form that's needed, not the objective form.

The so-called wrong versions may be used by some people in the elided phrases, but they are technically incorrect. And certainly incorrect in formal writing.


Over time, they may become more more acceptable than they are now—and to the point where most grammarians wouldn't correct them (as they would today).

For instance:

"Who's at the door?"
"It's I!"

That is the technically correct answer to the question.

But:

"Who's at the door?"
"It's me!"

While technically incorrect, this has become the standard reply. And, because it is used far more commonly now than the former, it has become, through idiomatic usage, acceptable. In fact, the technically correct version is so infrequently used, that it sounds awkward—and it's use would be questioned, even in some formal writing.

Speaking personally, it's I sounds strange even to me. Having said that, if I drop the contraction, turning it into it is I, then it sounds fine—albeit old fashioned (and, in fact, it is me, without the contraction, now becomes the more awkward of the two).


I don't think we're at the point where your first two examples would be left uncorrected by most grammarians. But, who knows how our usage will have evolved in the next fifty or a hundred years?

  • The first two examples are incorrect and the last two which are rewrites cannot be elided, really. – Lambie Apr 1 at 16:01
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    @Lambie The main issue in the question was the subjective versus the objective. But the elision itself is arguably correct, speaking stylistically. As from this post from The Chicago Manual of Style, "Jasper missed her and she him." – Jason Bassford Apr 1 at 16:10
  • @JasonBassford Thank you for your perfect answer. You have given the complete answer to my questions; however, you may be interested in sharing your opinion on the quoted material in my updated original post. – Later Apr 2 at 7:23
  • @Lambie Thank you for helping me. I think that for saying with certainty that something is incorrect it needs to give some reference. I see in your comment that you have stated some grammar rules which I cannot find in any grammar resources (I think those rules are not globally acceptable since it seems that Jason Bassford does not agree with you). Can you give me any reference or citation supporting such rules? – Later Apr 3 at 7:01
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    There's no such thing as technically incorrect, but sanctioned by usage – not in English, or any one language used by people, simply because there's no such thing as a higher authority on a language; the only authority is people who speak it. Anyhow, both it's me and it is I are grammatical responses in that context. The former belongs to neutral / informal style, and the latter to very formal style. I suggest you leave out the "technically (in)correct" descriptors in general. They are misleading, especially when you characterize completely unremarkable utterances as "incorrect". – userr2684291 Apr 3 at 23:35

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