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.

As we know, we can combine two independent sentences with the conjunction and; they can be negative, for example:

Peter did not write David, and David did not write Peter.

(Although the construction of the example is cumbersome, it is grammatically correct.)

So, getting an elliptical structure, I expected the following typical example to be correct:

Peter did not write David, and David did not write John.

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

But, I have read somewhere that such typical examples are not acceptable; in fact,

  • if the first clause is negative, the second conjunct has to be introduced by nor rather than and.

So the correct form must be

Peter did not write David, nor David did not write Peter.

Can any one explain to me whether the mentioned rule is globally acceptable in formal writing or not?

  • 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
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 12:53
  • I am curious: why do you want to "master" elliptical structures? If you want to write a book, it might be OK to use them, but in everyday life, they will make you less understandable.
    – virolino
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 12:57
  • @virolino I just want to learn formal writing.
    – Later
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 13:05
  • 1
    I completely agree with the use of nor. (And that it's a mistake to not use it here.) But no explanation as to why comes immediately to mind. Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 19:40
  • @JasonBassford Thank you for your comment.
    – Later
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 4:11

1 Answer 1


The nor is necessary because you can't elide the negation. In fact, some would say that in formal writing, the non-elliptical version should be:

Peter did not write David, (and) nor did David write John.

(I've known stuffy grammarians to argue over that 'and'; I have no opinion on that matter.)

Basically, if you use and it tends to suggest a positive sense. If you negate the verb in both halves, that is overcome - though some insist that conjunctions like that should be negated rather than negating the verb in the second portion in the normal way. However, if you use and without nor, and then elide the verb, you get

Peter did not write David, and David John.

That is hard to parse, because you have a negative verb and then the second part, which obviously feels elliptical, feels positive. But if you change the conjunction to one that conveys the negation:

Peter did not write David, nor David John.

Then it feels more natural. It's still not great, though, because two names next to each other like that look like they could be one person's name - so it's correct, but potentially confusing.


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