Last updated at 14:21 BST, Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Episode 193: Language Point

Helen and Tim chatting

Ellipsis

In informal, spoken English we often leave out words when it's easy to understand what's being said without them. For example, Tim said "Be out in a minute" rather than the fuller, more formal "I will be out in a minute". He also said "Just coming" rather than "I'm just coming".

Here are some more examples of when we often leave out words (this is called 'ellipsis'):

comparative structures with 'as' and 'than'

The words after 'as' and 'than' are often dropped if the meaning is clear:

There are as many girls as boys here. = There are as many girls as there are boys here.

She can speak more languages than you. = She can speak more languages than you can speak.

at the beginning of sentences

Unstressed words are often dropped at the beginning of sentences:

A: Fancy a coffee? = Do you fancy a coffee?
B: Would love a cup of tea. = I would love a cup of tea.

Got the time please? = Have you got the time please?

infinitives

1. You can use 'to' rather than repeating the full infinitive:

I don't eat sweets now but I used to when I was young. = I don't eat sweets now but I used to eat sweets when I was young.

I broke the vase. I didn't mean to. It just slipped. = I broke the vase. I didn't mean to break the vase. It just slipped.

2. Sometimes you can drop the infinitive and the 'to' as well:

Eat as much as you want. = Eat as much as you want to eat.

Can you open this window? I think it's stuck. I'll try. = I'll try to open the window.

at the end of a noun phrase

You can sometimes drop nouns after adjectives:

A: What kind of rice would you like?
B: Boiled. = Boiled rice.

If you don't have any brown bread, white will do. = If you don't have any brown bread, white bread will do.

and / but / or

Repeated words are often dropped in structures which use 'and', but' and 'or:

You look different. And smell different too. = You look different. And you smell different too.

She's a firm but fair boss. = She's a firm but she's a fair boss.

Have you got a pen or pencil please? = Have you got a pen or have you got a pencil please?

Vocabulary

cologne
perfume (for women) or aftershave (for men)
works wonders
works very well, produces very beneficial effects
wear off
stop being effective
bothered
worried or upset

Episode 193 links

  1. Home
  2. The Flatmates
  3. Episode 193: Language Point