I have a question about avoiding using the same verb twice in a certain sentence.

When you are talking about someone's change of taste in films, I think you can say

He doesn't like the movies he used to like.

If you want to avoid saying "like" twice in the same sentence, which of the sentences below sounds natural?

He doesn't like the movies he used to.

He doesn't like the movies he used to do.

  • 2
    You could use "do" there, and it might be "more acceptable / less "awkward" to Americans in particular. But most native speakers (specifically, me as a Brit) would either just repeat "like" (which isn't as "awkward" as you probably think), or discard the verb completely and end on to. Jul 24 at 11:57
  • The same awkwardness would apply regardless of the specific verb being replaced by ...as he used to do. Perhaps because I'm a Brit, I really don't think much of constructions like He doesn't go to the movies as often as he used to do. There's absolutely no reason to have any finite verb at the end there - but imho if you insist on doing this it's better to repeat the original verb rather that just throw in do regardless of what it refers back to. Jul 24 at 12:02

The omission of words from a sentence is known as ellipsis.

Whether or not the final verb can be omitted depends on what you think the complete sentence should be:

He doesn't like the movies he used to like.
He doesn't like the movies he used to do.

In my opinion, the first sentence is the best complete sentence and, as like occurs in the second clause in exactly the same form as in the first, it can be omitted from the second clause.

If you think that the second sentence is better, you cannot ellipsize do because it is a proxy for like in the first clause. It does not exactly match anything in the first clause in either form or function.

If the original sentence were

He doesn't do the things that he used to do

The do in the second clause can be omitted, because it exactly matches the do in the first clause.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.