Ellipsis occurs when a nonessential word is omitted from speech or writing.  This happens more frequently than most people realize, and it is the source of much confusion when learning oral language or written language (i.e. reading).  An example:  “I knew (that) I needed to speak up.”

  • Ellipsis is common in clauses with relative pronouns, as in the above example or in this example:  “There’s the place (where) I went to school.”
  • Ellipsis is also common with prepositions, e.g. “Give (to) me a kiss.” or “Call (for) him a cab.”
  • The inclusion of these prepositional phrases or relative clauses may be considered technically correct, but redundant nearly to the point of being superfluous.
  • The existence of ellipsis is evidence for the notion that language is more convention based than rule based.  We do what works best, even when it seems to defy grammatical rules.  As with every other structure in language, ellipsis exists because it assists.
  • (An ellipsis is a punctuation symbol (…) used to indicate omission.)