I'll meet you in the city, that is, I will if the trains are running.

I am wondering why after will, there is no verb.


One of the main properties of auxiliary verbs is that they can exhibit code (show code). What this means is that we can use just the auxiliary verb to represent the whole of the rest of the verb phrase. The listener must be able to tell what this missing information is. Usually it has already been talked about, but it might be clear from the physical situation.

There are two main groups of auxiliary verbs. The first includes BE, HAVE and the dummy auxiliary DO. The second group, known as modal verbs has nine central members (depending on how you count them). These are:


If there is more than one auxiliary in a verb phrase, then we can choose which auxiliary we want to exhibit code. Look at the following example:

A. Has your elephant been eating my plants?

B. She might have been eating your plants.

Here speaker B's answer is very long. We don't need to use the whole phrase "might have been eating your plants", because speaker A will be able to understand what we are talking about. There are three auxiliary verbs in B's reply. We can use any of them to take code for the rest of the sentence:

  • She might have been. [ eating your plants ]
  • She might have. [ been eating your plants ]
  • She might. [ have been eating your plants ]

The Original Poster's Question

I'll meet you in the city. That is, I will if the trains are running.

The reason that there is no verb after will in the second sentence is that WILL is exhibiting code for "will meet you in the city". The speaker can do this because we can understand meet you in the city from the previous sentence. The reason that WILL is allowed to do this is that it is an auxiliary verb.

Hope this is helpful!

  • 1
    Not being familiar with your "take code" usage, I googled "take code" linguistics auxiliary verb. The only relevant results I found were a few of your posts on ELL/ELU. Digging deeper, I eventually found this more extensive reference to code in the context of auxiliary verbs, where the far more natural-sounding term manifest code is used (in "standard" English, X codes for Y). Jan 29 '15 at 13:40
  • 1
    I don't have a problem with the word code as referenced in the NICE acronym. And in the link I gave earlier: When used as auxiliary rather than lexical verbs be, have, and do also manifest code. 'Code' is used for this property because auxiliaries and do also represent or 'code' the omitted main verb in these constructions. I'm just saying the collocation take code strikes me as strange, and I don't see that specific form anywhere in your links. Jan 29 '15 at 14:10
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    @FumbleFingers I've had a ponder and a peruse, and on sum I think you're right. I'm plumping for exhibit code as I've seen in a couple of sources - plus a little explanation. Have had an edit. Thanks for the useful obs! Jan 29 '15 at 14:34

The verb is omitted to avoid repetition. Here's what you'd say if you included it:

I'll meet you in the city--that is, I'll meet you in the city if the trains are running.

Most people feel that such a repetition is clumsy and unnecessary.

You couldn't just say:

I'll meet you in the city--that is, I'll meet if the trains are running.

because meet demands an object. You could just omit repeating the city, though, on the same principle as omitting the whole verb phrase:

I'll meet you in the city--that is, I'll meet you if the trains are running.

Note that when omitting all of the verb phrase except will, you can't use a contraction:

I'll meet you in the city--that is, I'll if the trains are running.

The word will has to hold the place of the entire verb phrase, so it's stressed and can't be shortened even further into a contraction.

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