Features of Verb Phrase Ellipsis in English
In the types of VP-ellipsis considered here, which are features of English grammar, the elided VP must be a non-finite VP; it cannot be a finite VP. Further, the ellipsis must be introduced by an auxiliary verb (be, can, do, don't, could, have, may, might, shall, should, will, won't, would, etc.) or by the infinitive particle to. In the examples below, the elided material of VP-ellipsis is indicated using subscripts and a smaller font and the antecedent to the ellipsis is bolded:
- You might do it, but I won't .
- She won't laugh, but he will .
- Susan has been cheating, and Fred has too.
- Larry is not telling the truth, neither is Jim .
Attempts at VP-ellipsis that lack an auxiliary verb fail, unless the infinitive particle to is retained:
- a. *Sam wants to eat, and Fred wants as well. (* indicates that the sentence is ungrammatical)
- b. Sam wants to eat, and Fred wants to as well.
- a. *Josh likes to sleep late, and Hillary likes as well.
- b. Josh likes to sleep late, and Hillary likes to as well.
Apparent exceptions to this restriction on VP-ellipsis may be instances of null complement anaphora, e.g. ?Bill tried to leave, and Jim tried too.
A particularly frequent construction in which VP-ellipsis (obligatorily) occurs is the tag question:
- Jeremy likes beer, doesn't he ?
- Susan will write the paper, won't she .
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