Suppose that you can say

the black and white balls == instead of == the black ball and the white ball


the book and pen == instead of == the book and the pen

Or in mathematics we say

3 * (2 + 5) === instead of 3*2 + 3 *5

What is the name of this action? I mean to just use one word for the shared part. I thought it is factor out; however, dictionary says that factor out means to not include something in calculation. I don't mean a linguistic concept, but just a verb for this action for anything and any situation that it is possible.

  • "To omit", possibly. There's also a noun, "ellipsis". Oct 19, 2015 at 16:22
  • @CopperKettle, thanks, but I think "omit" doesn't convey the part is shared and also I don't mean a linguistic concept (I modified the question)
    – Ahmad
    Oct 19, 2015 at 16:39
  • @Adam, thanks, okey, what about "the black and white balls" or "the black and white humans" or any example you think is better, you name it
    – Ahmad
    Oct 19, 2015 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


the book and pen == instead of == the book and the pen

These do not necessarily mean exactly the same thing. If pen is part of a set with the book (e.g. A diary with a builtin loop to which the pen is attached) it would be more natural to say hand me the book and pen rather than hand me the book and the pen.

  • Suppose we have a non-mathematical example that does preserve meaning:

Some examples don't preserve meaning, but some do.

This sentence has two examples of ellipsis, in which a word or phrase is omitted and the meaning is implied.

Some examples don't preserve meaning, but some [examples] do [preserve meaning].

Omission of [examples] is noun ellipsis. Omission of [preserve meaning] is verb phrase ellipsis.

  • I would not use factor out to describe what you did in the black/white ball example.

"The black and white ball" refers to one ball that has two colors.

"The black ball and white ball" refers to two different balls, each of which has one color.

"The black and white balls", is ambiguous. It could refer to either multiple balls, each of is either black OR white, or it could refer to multiple bi-colored balls. Without additional context, I would assume it meant the latter (two or more balls, each of which is both black and white.)

Suppose context makes it clear that this is not the case (e.g. a table has three balls on it, each of a different color, and the magician instructs the volunteer to "pick up the black [balls] and [the] white balls"). This is noun ellipsis.

You are looking for a "non-technical" synonym for ellipsis. I can't think of one, probably because this type of analysis of sentence structure rarely happens outside of a "technical" context.

  • Thank you for the hints, but please don't take my example as it is, I know there are examples for my intention
    – Ahmad
    Oct 19, 2015 at 17:48
  • Or for any reason if I do it over two phrases, did I "factor the words out"? I modified my question to correct the first sentence and add another example
    – Ahmad
    Oct 19, 2015 at 17:52
  • Factor out carries the sense you want in the realm of mathematics. I would not use it to describe sentence construction, unless I wanted to sound like I was making a geeky "in-joke." Maybe there are people somewhere who use "factor out" as a linguistic term in this way, but I haven't met them.
    – Adam
    Oct 19, 2015 at 18:00
  • I know there are examples for my intention: I don't mean to be flip, but I can't think of one that isn't just an example of ellipsis. As @CopperKettle said in the first place, when parallelism, or other context allows us to leave words out without changing the meaning, we call that ellipsis.
    – Adam
    Oct 19, 2015 at 18:15
  • If you note I began my question with suppose that, then the black and white balls is a correct example. I don't care if it is ambiguous when there is no context, but when some black and white balls are in front of me the hearer understand my intention. ellipsis is a technical term, I thought maybe there is some simple verbs for some non-mathematical examples! Anyway thank you
    – Ahmad
    Oct 19, 2015 at 18:49

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