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GMAT Sentence Correction Grammar Rule:  ELLIPSIS

What is an ellipsis, why should you bother to know it, and how is it tested on the GMAT?

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: We’re not talking about an ellipse, which in geometry is a plane curve that’s the slice of a cone (and not tested on the GMAT, by the way); and we’re not talking about an eclipse, which of course is when one object gets between you and another object and blocks your view (e.g. a solar eclipse).

Rather, we’re talking about an ellipsis, which is an admittedly obscure grammar term defined as follows:

Definition: An ellipsis is the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or can be understood from contextual clues.

For example, there’s a famous quote by Plato that reads: “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.”

Q: What word(s) have been left out in the above quote?

A: The word “talk,” which should logically be repeated after fools. After the semicolon, technically it should say “…fools TALK because they have to say something.” However, it is unnecessary to repeat the word talk because it is understood that the second part of the sentence follows the same pattern as the first part of the sentence. The sentence is grammatically correct as is.

Now, our objective at Dominate the GMAT isn’t to teach you archaic grammar rules for their own sake, but rather to teach you how to get more right answers on test day. So, while you don’t actually need to know what an ellipsis is by name, you do need to know how it’s used and what to be on the lookout for on the GMAT.

Take a look at this sample GMAT sentence correction question for an illustration:

Tom is not and does not intend to run for senior class president.

(A) is not and does not intend to run
(B) is not running and does not intend to
(C) is not and will not run
(D) is not running and does not intend to run
(E) has not and does not run

Is anything wrong with the original sentence?

Yes, because some form of the verb “to run” has been omitted after the first “not.” This is an incorrect use of the ellipsis because in a construction like this one, the verb may properly be omitted only if it is in the same form as another appearance of the same verb. Since it wouldn’t make sense to use “run” in both locations, it is therefore improper to omit it in either case.

Instead, “running” would be the form of the verb that must logically come after the first “not,” and therefore it must be included for the sentence to be grammatically correct. The correct answer is therefore answer choice D.

That’s all there is to it. Remembering the actual grammatical term is actually harder than applying the rule itself, and fortunately you only have to do the latter on test day!