The car was red, not blue.

I went home, not to the supermarket.

In these two examples, which use the word 'not' to create contrast, are we seeing a case of ellipsis? Could we find the original forms of these sentences by adding the missing components that would make it grammatical? (See below.)

The car was red, and it was not blue.

I went home, and I did not go to the supermarket.

I think that this explains what is happening here, as the extra words are superfluous.

  • 1
    This question is better suited for English Language & Usage as it's for learning about English, rather than learning English as a language learner. I'd migrate the question to that site for you, but it has a bounty so I cannot.
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 21:27
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    I'd consider not blue / not to the supermarket appositives (an appositive adjective in the first case, I think an appositive adverb clause in the second?) and wouldn't call them ellipses any more than any other appositive structures (eg. I wouldn't consider I live in Canada, the land of the free an ellipsis of I live in Canada and Canada is the land of the free). Also cf. I went home, to my mother not being equivalent to I went home and I went to my mother. Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 3:02

1 Answer 1


Commas are often used in English to replace elided elements. (This has nothing to do with "not". A famous example: "To err is human; to forgive, divine." The comma replaces "is".) In this case, I'd read each comma as replacing "and":

The car was red and not blue.

I went home and not to the supermarket.

There may be other options; for example, the commas in these sentences could replace "but" in certain contexts.

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