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Is it correct and appropriate to omit the verb in the second part of the sentence below?

The reviewer X questioned the scientific background of my Ph.D. thesis but the reviewer Y about too many references.

3 Answers 3

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You can omit words in a parallel structure, but the way you are trying to do this is incorrect and confusing in your example sentence, because it isn't completely parallel or phrased correctly.

The general idea is called a gapping comma. Usually, the two parts have to be completely parallel, and yours aren't.

A normal use of a gapping comma is something like

Anna ordered steak, but John, the fish.

This works because we could just insert the verb directly into the second part:

Anna ordered steak, but John ordered the fish.

In your sentence, it doesn't quite work:

The reviewer X questioned the scientific background of my Ph.D. thesis but the reviewer Y questioned about too many references.

If "reviewer X questioned A" then the parallel structure in the second part needs to be "reviewer Y questioned B", and we don't usually say someone "questioned about" something. It would be possible to rewrite your sentence to it is more parallel, like

Reviewer X questioned the scientific background of my Ph.D. thesis but Reviewer Y, the excessive number of references.

3

It is not good to omit the verb in this case. It isn't clear what the implied verb should be.

I suppose you mean "... questioned about too many references". Except that isn't idiomatic. You "ask about" something, you don't (usually) "question about" it.

I'm also don't see the contrast between the two reviewers. Both are making criticisms so I would use the conjunction "and".

The first reviewer questioned the scientific background of my PhD thesis, and the second wondered if there were too many references.

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  • The research is usually based on the previous research reported in the literature that is indicated by a large number of references in this case. That is why, in my opinion, there is the contrast between two reviewers.
    – colombien
    Mar 20, 2021 at 18:03
  • @colombien: I don't understand your comment.   Most of us understand that scientific papers often contain references to prior works, and nobody is saying that the two reviewers are indistinguishable (the same). Mar 24, 2021 at 19:27
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If you are removing the preposition, you could remove it totally

  1. The reviewer X questioned the scientific background of my thesis but the reviewer Y, the too many references in it.

If you wish to use the preposition,

  1. The reviewer X questioned about the scientific background of my thesis; but the reviewer Y about the too many references.

Alternate suggestion:

  1. While the reviewer X questioned the scientific background of my thesis, the reviewer Y had questions about the too many references.

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