LINGUIST List 10.402

Tue Mar 16 1999

Sum: Pronoun Ellipsis

Editor for this issue: Scott Fults <>


  1. Sadao Ando, Pronoun Ellipsis

Message 1: Pronoun Ellipsis

Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 13:39:39 +0900
From: Sadao Ando <>
Subject: Pronoun Ellipsis

 Many thanks to those who have kindly offered their opinions to my
question. Now I'm inclined to think this way:

 (1) This problem is too abstract for Bill to solve.
 (2) This problem is too abstract for Bill to solve it.

Lasnik and Fiengo(1974) say that (1) derives from (3) and (2) from

 (3) To solve this problem is too abstract for[prep] Bill.
 (4) For[Comp] Bill to solve this problem is too abstract.

And Jespersen(MEGIII: p.218)states that after 'too' it is allowable to
have and to omit 'it': that idea is too subtle for them to understand

The longer the construction, the more necessary it will be to add the
pronoun: this wood is too hard for for me to attempt to pierce it.

 Despite their opinions, I still think sentences of the type (1)
are by far the more common, for empirically, out of over twenty
examples of this type retrieved from the BNC none are found with
object pronoun, and theoretically, since the subject in this type of
sentences acts as "implicit object"(as OED names it) of the
infinitive, it will be redundant to add a pronoun. In other words, AP
indirectly modifies the subjet(i.e. this problem is abstract). I will
admitt, however, that in conversational English the pronoun might well

 On the other hand, sentences of the type (5) normally require a
pronoun, I assume:

 (5) a. He ran too quickly for me to catch him. (Hornby, Patterns and
 b. He was too near for me to avoid him. (Curme, Syntax p.308)

 The reason is that these advPs(quickly and near) do not modify the
subject but the predicate verb; that is, they are manner adverbs
modifying the manner of motion and rest;in other words, the infinitive
can't retroactively refer to the subject, which can't act as "implicit
subject", hence the need for an object pronoun.

Sadao ANDO
 Emeritus Professor of English Linguistics at Hiroshima University
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue