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How To Teach Ellipsis

So, what’s an ellipsis, you ask? Those three little dots for continuation, right? (…) Well, in grammar terms, Ellipsis is a form of substitution; a way to not repeat yourself. For example, if someone asks me if I think it will rain tomorrow, I can simply say “I hope not” rather than using a pronoun and verb or repeating the whole idea.

What is An Ellipsis?

So, this falls into the advanced category of English grammar for ESL learners (C1). Actually, I tried it with some B2  students this week and it has proven to be quite a challenge for them. However, I believe in challenging my students and I believe the game I made worked fairly well for B2 students (and super well for my C1 students)

You have access to my printables library so you can grab the flashcards, right? They’re in the February 2017 section.

Free Printables Library

Teaching Relative Clauses (B1-C1)

For those of you not familiar with the Common European Frame of Reference (CEFR) for language learning, B1 is lower intermediate, B2 is upper intermediate and C1 is Advanced. For example, the class I taught last night was a first year university English class found the relative pronouns super easy, but had a couple of questions about the ellipsis questions.

Here a a few tips for teaching relative clauses to your class!:

3 Tips for Teaching Relative Clauses

  • Review the difference between Who and Whom. Below is of my favourite graphics from Pinterest that explains the difference, from a blog called Grammar Revolution. What a great graphic to explain the difference!
  • Remind students that which and that can be interchangeable
  • Have students make a list of all the relative pronouns they know

Who vs. Whom

Teaching Ellipsis

So, don’t expect teaching Ellipsis to be easy. In fact, one book NOT to use is the one that we have to use am to teach at UB – Ready for CAE. Now, I don’t want this blog to be about negativity, so I won’t say any more about the badly explained concepts in that book!

Instead, grab the English File Advanced book here. By the way, I’m looking for somewhere to purchase the online (interactive .pdf) version, so if you happen to know where I can do that, please let me know in the comments below or drop me a line here.



3 Tips for Teaching Ellipsis:

  • Explain the different uses of “nor” (I want neither this one nor this one vs. I don’t want this one. Nor do I)
  • Check out this helpful slideshow on
  • Consult a grammar reference book before you teach this concept (even the appendix of New English File) as the rules are tricky!

Fun Reference & Ellipsis Flashcards

So, to help you out, I’ve created a flashcard game you can photocopy and use in your class. It took about 20 minutes in my advanced class last night and they had fun with it!

How To Play

  • First, be sure you print the flashcards double-sided, so that the answers appear on the back of the game cards.  Don’t have a double-sided printer? Print them out one sided and glue the pages together!
  • Have enough sets for your class to make groups of 4 students at the most
  • Have one student start as the Question Reader, and get the others in the group to guess the correct answer
  • The Question Reader should change every turn, so everyone has a chance to read and answer
  • Challenge: Have students keep score (there are 24 cards) and have the winner be person with the highest score in the fastest group to finish!

You have access to my free printables library, right? Remember all you have to do is click here to sign up, or sign up at the bottom of this post. I’d love to have you as part of the Teaching Cove community.

Happy Teaching!




P.S.  Photo fans, if you’re curious, I took the main photo for today’s post at a book-making festival in Leiden, Holland in November 2016.

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