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Time and again, he has proved the doubters wrong.

I read this sentence in a book and trying to understand why there is no "were" (or are?) between the words doubters and wrong.

Is "the doubters wrong" functioning as an adverbial phrase so the verb were is not required? Could someone please explain the grammaticality of this sentence?

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  • I don't know why this question was voted down. Should I have elaborated more? Could I please get feedback so that I could improve my future posts?
    – S.K
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 4:29
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    I have no clue why it was voted down. Ellipsis must be very hard for anyone not a native speaker. I have upvoted it. Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 14:03
  • Thank you, @JeffMorrow. I didn't know about ellipsis and your answer helped me. I found info on the Wikipedia page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipsis_(linguistics) helpful.
    – S.K
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 14:12

1 Answer 1

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This is an example of ellipsis, an omission of a word or phrase that is so common that a native speaker understands it implicitly. Ellipsis is grammatical in some relatively rare cases, but must drive learners insane because there seem to be no rules on when it is grammatical and when it is not.

He proved that the doubters were wrong

means the same thing and is just as correct grammatically as

He proved the doubters to be wrong

The second sentence gets shortened by ellipsis to

He proved the doubters wrong

A native speaker simply inserts “to be” when parsing the sentence.

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    Would you agree that "wrong" could also be considered an object complement? In that case, "he proved the doubters wrong" would have a similiar structure, for example, to "he called them brave". (The latter sentence would, of course, not be elliptical.) Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 3:38
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    I fully agree. The vocabulary used to describe the way a language works is not graven in stone. I like talking about ellipsis because (a) it is common in English although students with a different native language seem to never have heard of it, and (b) a number of different peculiarities of English, particularly in informal English, can be explained with reference to the single, unifying principle of ellipsis. But that is a purely personal view. Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 14:43

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