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Unit 28. I'm not Sure, Not Sure, 'm not Sure.

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Ellipsis and 'near ellipsis'

Unit 28; Part A

 
idea.jpgImportant for listening! 
In spoken English we often leave out words when they are obvious from the context:
          A: What's the matter? B: Got a headache. ( = I've got a headache.)

This process is called ellipsis. Often, however, the words are not omitted completely, but a very short sound from the omitted words is left behind:
         've got a headache. (/vgot.../)

We will refer to this as near ellipsis.
 

Being aware of ellipsis and near ellipsis can help you to understand spoken English, and using it can make you sound more natural and fluent.

Unit 28; Part B

 
idea.jpgImportant for listening!
Ellipsis and near ellipsis are common at the beginning of an utterance. Here are some typical patterns. Examples give the complete (but often contracted) form, the form with ellipsis,and the form with near ellipsis.
  • 28.1.jpgleaving out personal subject + be/have
    A: What time will we get there?
    B: I'm not sure. / Not sure. / 'm not sure.
    A: Where's Jack?
    B: He's gone home. / Gone home. / 's gone home.
  • leaving out it before is/has
    A: What's the curry like?
    B: It's really hot. / Really hot. / 'ts really hot.
    A: What's wrong with your camera?
    B: It's broken. / Broken. / 'ts broken.
  • leaving out be
    Is that Ken? / That Ken? / 's that Ken?
    Are we there yet? / We there yet? / 're (/∂/) we there yet?
  • leaving out an auxiliary verb or be + subject
    Do you want another drink? / Want another drink? / d'y (/d3/) want another drink?
    Have you seen my keys? / Seen my keys? / v'y (
    /vj/) seen my keys?
    Are you leaving already? / Leaving already? / r'y (
    /∂j/) leaving already or: 'y (/j/) leaving already?
 

Unit 28; Part C

The verbs be and have are often left out between the question word and subject in wh- questions:
      What are you doing? / What you doing? / What're you doing?
      What have you got there? / What you got there? / What've you got there?


note.jpgNote: When does follows a wh- word, it can be pronounced /s/ or /z/, but isn't left out completely:
What does he do? / What's he do .. .? (not: What he do?)
When does it start? I When's it start?
(not: When it start?)

 



Exercises

dialogue.jpgIn the conversation below, the complete forms of the sections in bold are given. Listen and decide when the speakers actually use ellipsis (write E) or near ellipsis (write NE).
Key.28.3.jpg
 
28.2.jpg    
A: What are you making?  NE 
B: It's a cake for Richard's birthday.    E 
A: It's amazing, isn't it?  ____
B: Do you think he'll like it? ____
A: I'm sure he will, although he's a bit fussy about food, isn't he? ____ / ____   
B: Have you seen this?  ____
A: Wow! Is that a real fower?  ____
B: No, it's made from sugar.  ____
A: When does it have to be ready? ____
B: It's his birthday tomorrow. Do you know where he is now?  ____ / ____
A: I've no idea.  ____
dialogue.jpgListen to these conversations. Press 'pause' before each B part and read it aloud. (Use near ellipsis of the word(s) in bold.) Then press 'play' again and compare your pronunciation with what follows.
Key.(Speaker A = Poland)
12 A 'dibber' is a small hand-held tool used by gardeners for making holes in soil into which seeds can be dropped.
14 A 'brown-bag lunch' is a phrase mainly used in North American English. It is food bought or prepared at home to be eaten during a lunch break at work, often carried in a brown paper bag. In British English we would be more likely to talk about a 'packed lunch'.


1    A: Have you heard from Paul recently? B: I've just phoned him.
2    A: My shoes feel tight. B: Have you got the right ones?
3    A: I retired last year. B: What are you doing now?
4    A: We're having a barbeque tonight. B: It's a good job it's not raining.
5    A: Marco's got a new job. B: What does he do?
6    A: Do you like my new hat? B: Is that a hat?
7    A: Pat looks really ill. B: She's got a terrible cold.
8    A: What time is it? B: It's half past.
9    A: We got that painting in Spain. B: Do you remember exactly where we bought it?
10  A: Have you taken my money? B: What are you talking about?
11  A: Do you think we can cut across that field? B: I'm pretty sure we can.
12  A: What's that thing? B: It's called a dibber.
13  A: I can't find my gloves. B: Are these yours?
14  A: We're having a brown-bag lunch. B: What does that mean?
15  A: We should be in Milton in about ten minutes. B: Do you know where to go when we get there?

Follow up: Ellipsis and near ellipsis happen in informal speech in most languages. Listen to conversations in your first language (or better still, listen to a recording) and find examples.

 
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