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 read somewhere that in the following typical examples the infinitival to must be retained and such examples without it are grammatically incorrect:

He wants to answer the question, and she wants to answer the question as well.

I like to study math, and you like to study math as well.

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

But, I have seen the following typical examples without the infinitival to:

He tried to go, and she tried to go as well.

I asked you to help, but you refused to help .

Can any one explain to me whether I should elide the infinitival to in such elliptical structures or not (in formal writing)?

  • 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 3, 2019 at 13:14

1 Answer 1


Try and refuse can be transitive or intransitive. "He tried" and "you refused" are complete sentences, even though they have no objects.

It's likely that in your second set of example sentences there's actually no ellipsis. That is, it's not "I asked you to help, but you refused to help," it's simply "I asked you to help, but you refused."

On the other hand, like is always transitive. "You like" is not a complete sentence. Want is sometimes intransitive, but this use is not nearly as common as the transitive use, and it has a slightly different meaning. "She wants" is a complete sentence, but it might mean she is destitute or she has some unspecified lack.


intransitive verb

1 : to be needy or destitute

2 : to have or feel need
// never wants for friends

3 : to be necessary or needed

4 : to desire to come, go, or be
// the cat wants in
// wants out of the deal


So, if you drop the infinitive to, it is not clear that there's an ellipsis; it will appear as if you're trying to use the verb intransitively. Only some verbs can be used intransitively, and for others, the intransitive use has a different meaning.

  • Thank you for your excellent answer. So according to your answer, the sentence ”I asked you to help, but you refused to” can be grammatically correct, right?
    – Later
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 9:25
  • Yes, @Later, that would be fine.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 13:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .