Exposing Students to Ellipsis

Using ellipsis confidently and appropriately in speaking comes with practice. I decided the first step to helping students was to call awareness to the practice of omitting words. My video lesson goes through about a dozen patterns. Some should already be familiar to intermediate students. My hope was to show learners how some patterns have already become instinctive, such as giving short answers to yes-no questions. With that in mind, they can listen with heightened awareness for more examples of ellipsis in spoken contexts. Increased exposure will make the remaining patterns just as familiar.

Where to find more examples:
TED Talks
NPR podcasts
Students can listen to a brief segment of recorded speech or you can read a passage aloud. (Use transcripts.) One approach is to show them the text with omitted words actually written back in. As they listen, they can underline or place brackets around the words they didn’t hear.  When they’re done listening, work together to identify the pattern of ellipsis.

[model retrieved from NPR’s Hidden Brain series, May 28, 2020]

“We don’t always behave the way economic models say we will [behave]. We don’t save enough for retirement. We order dessert when we’re supposed to be dieting. We give donations when we could keep our money for ourselves.

Again and again, we fail to act rationally and selfishly — the way traditional economics expects us to [act].”

Patterns: (1) We can omit the base verb after a modal verb if it’s understood from context. (2) We can omit the base verb from an infinitive if it’s understood from context.

In my video lesson on ellipsis, I mentioned the practice of using only the beginning of a well-known proverb. Part of doing this successfully, involves using intonation to signal incompleteness. A fall-rise would be appropriate, and you could model this pattern as you have students match proverbs to their usual endings. Check out my pair activity: Ellipis_Using Proverbs.

Related posts:
Student Stumper 43: Distinguishing between an infinitive and a bare infinitive
Student Stumper 44: How can an adjective follow “than” in “later than usual”?
Using punctuation marks: the better-known ones and the lesser-known ones

Featured photo by geralt retrieved from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/question-mark-punctuation-marks-112390/.

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