I was at a conference and a speaker said this at a keynote. He started the keynote with this following sentence

... (company name) is about what is and what isn't. ...

I think the context is they're a DNA testing company, and they're talking about the importance of fast, accurate DNA test. I would assume by that he means (company name) is about what is [true] and what isn't [true] but I'm dubious. Is this grammatically correct?

  • We would need the rest of the phrase to provide more context, but if what you summise is true, then, yes, you can use ellipsis to be more succinct. "This investigation aims to discover what is [true] and isn't true.
    – JMB
    Jun 11, 2015 at 14:09
  • 2
    Or, possibly, this investigation aims to discover what exists and what does not exist.
    – Adam
    Jun 11, 2015 at 14:18
  • To the best of my recollection, That was the first sentence he said, and after that he went on to talk about an incident of a person who was falsely convicted because of the inaccurate DNA testing
    – RexYuan
    Jun 11, 2015 at 15:13
  • What I'm wondering is that is (be), if I recall correctly, has to link a subject to some other things. But here is and isn't don't link what to anything
    – RexYuan
    Jun 11, 2015 at 15:15

1 Answer 1


As JMB says, we'd need more context to know (or guess) what the speaker meant.

But in general, if you say, "X is" as a stand-alone statement, you mean that it exists. If you say "X is not", you mean it doesn't exist.

For example: "Is there a place near here where I can buy batteries?" "Yes, there is."

Or: "Is there a doctor in the building?" "No, I'm sorry, there is not."

If you are responding to a question about a state or condition, "is" means that the thing does indeed satisfy the state or condition, and "is not" means that it doesn't. "Is this car for sale?" "Yes, it is." Or, "No, it is not."

In a context where you are discussing a state, a simple "It is" may mean that the thing meets the condition.

"This book is not very interesting." "Oh, this one is." That is, you say your book is not interesting, but this book over here IS interesting.

  • I'm pretty sure My assumption, that he mean that by they will determine what is true and what is not true, is right. Thanks for clearing that up that it's grammatically correct
    – RexYuan
    Jun 11, 2015 at 16:59
  • And to be honest, I really can't remember too well what exactly he said after... sorry. attended dozens of keynotes today
    – RexYuan
    Jun 11, 2015 at 17:02
  • Depends on context. If he preceded that sentence with a statement about knowing what is true, then yeah. Like, "Company X is all about truth. Company X is about what is and is not." But if he hadn't said anything about truth previously, then that wouldn't be a likely reading.
    – Jay
    Jun 11, 2015 at 17:08
  • I'm not sure. If he did not say anything before that, what might be the case? Could it be the case that he said this for the dramatic effect?
    – RexYuan
    Jun 11, 2015 at 17:23

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