What is an Elliptical Adverb Clause?

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine what an elliptical clause is, what an adverb clause is, and how to correctly use elliptical adverb clauses in a sentence.

Using Elliptical Adverb Clauses

How? Why? To what degree? Under what conditions? These are the kinds of questions that subordinate adverb clauses answer about the main clause. Usually, elliptical clauses are dependent adverb clauses. Let's find out what an elliptical adverb clause is and how to use it in a sentence.

Adverb Clauses

What is an adverb clause? Adverb clauses are subordinate clauses (support the main clause, but can't stand alone) that act as an adverb in a sentence. An adverb is a part of speech that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

For example, look at the following adverb clause:

  • I drove to Colorado because I miss the mountains.

'…because I miss the mountains,' is a subordinate clause with a subject and verb that supports the main clause, which is 'I drove to Colorado…' This subordinate clause is also an adverb clause because it modifies the verb 'drove' by explaining why I drove. Adverbs usually answer one of the following questions: How? When? Where? Why? To what degree? Under what conditions?

While our 'driving to Colorado' example meets the criteria for a dependent adverb clause, this example is not an elliptical clause because the subject and verb are directly written, not implied.

Elliptical Clauses

An elliptical clause is a clause where at least one of the words is implied. The word that is inferred may be the subject or the verb.

For example:

  • Kim watches TV more than I.

In this sentence, the verb is implied as what the writer is really saying is:

  • Kim watches TV more than I watch TV.

The elliptical clause 'more than I watch TV' is a subordinate clause that answers the question 'to what degree?' This clause modifies the verb 'watches,' making it function as an adverb in the sentence.

Here is another example of an elliptical clause:

  • Chris left his house on Thursday morning; Jerry, Friday afternoon.

In other words:

  • Chris left his house on Thursday morning; Jerry left his house on Friday afternoon.

The comma replaces the implied verb, article, and object 'left his house'

Elliptical Clauses with Pronouns

Elliptical clauses can be confusing to use, especially when they end in pronouns.

For example:

  • Mark makes more money than I.

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