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"I like this, not that."

Could you explain this usage by saying the comma represents an omitted word? I've always taken it to mean "I like this and not that" or "I like this, and I do not like that." Is this correct?

I'm wondering because I'm currently reviewing the usage of commas, and I'd like to know if I can explain it this way in my blog. The other examples of commas representing omitted words are:

  • Lists (red, white and blue) - omitted "and"
  • Paired/Coordinate Adjectives (sweet, delicious strawberries) - omitted "and"
  • Other Omitted Words (I like this; John, that.) - omitted verb "likes"


  • So, if I'm correct about the "I like this, not that" example, I'd include it along with those other uses.
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Hi,

"I like this, not that."

Could you explain this usage by saying the comma represents an omitted word? I've always taken it to mean "I like this and not that" or "I like this, and I do not like that." Is this correct? I guess you could say that.

I'm wondering because I'm currently reviewing the usage of commas, and I'd like to know if I can explain it this way in my blog. The other examples of commas representing omitted words are:

  • Lists (red, white and blue) - omitted "and"
  • Paired/Coordinate Adjectives (sweet, delicious strawberries) - omitted "and" On a simple level, yes. At a deeper level, I hesitate a little about this kind of idea. To say that 'and' is omitted suggests that it could/should be there in the first place. I wonder. It's just two attributes that are associated with strawberries. I can see my primitive ancestor tasting strawberries for the first time, and going 'grunt, GRUNT'. But perhaps you don't care about this kind of concern in your blog?


  • To put it another way, if grammar does not require it, why would one say that it is omitted? It never had to be there.

    • Other Omitted Words (I like this; John, that.) - omitted verb "likes"
    So, if I'm correct about the "I like this, not that" example, I'd include it along with those other uses.

    Best wishes, Clive
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Thanks! You make a good point about the paired adjectives. I guess I think about it that way because a common way to tell the difference between coordinate and cumulative adjectives is to insert an and; for example, "the nice and old lady" doesn't sound right, so it should be written without a comma.

I guess I should rephrase my explanation to say that here the comma either represents an omitted word (like and) or fits where it could be replaced with a word.
This is a question I also once pondered.

To my knowledge, the answer is no; it does not replace the omitted word, and.

I say this because the comma can actually be left out in some instances, even though there may be omitted words in the sentence. For example, in one of your sentences, you state that the comma shows that the verb (I think it was like) was omitted. However, I have read that the comma can be left out if the sentence is still clear.

So I think of this comma not as an indication of an omitted word but as a tool used to prevent ambiguities when words have been left out.

Edd
Yes, there is definitively a comma rule whereby the comma can act as an ellipsis, representing omitted words. The example you gave is the same sentence structure I give in my ACT PREP class: I like this; John, that.
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