Pro-verb Phrases

Pro-verb phrases are short words or expressions that replace the verb and all that comes after it.

Pro-verb Phrases in the English Grammar

What Are Pro-Verb Phrases?

Pro-verb phrases are short words or expressions that replace the verb and its accompanying elements.
As a type of pro-form, pro-verb phrases are anaphoric, meaning they refer back to other elements in the sentence.

English Pro-Verb Phrases

In English, 'do and 'so' are common pro-verb phrases. For example, in the sentence 'Sam went to the toy store and Alec did too', 'did' is a short form substituting the full verb phrase 'went to the toy store.' Let's take a look at some of the common pro-verb phrases in English:

So as a Pro-verb Phrase

Using "so" as a pro-verb

So + Modals or Auxiliaries

We use 'so' with 'be', 'modal verbs', and 'auxiliary verbs' to avoid repeating a verb, especially in short responses with pronoun subjects.
When we use 'so' in this way, we invert the verb and subject, and we do not repeat the main verb. For example:

A : I'm studying tonight.

B : So am I. (I am studying tonight, too.)

A : They all joined the new gym.

B : After three weeks so did he! (after three weeks he joined the gym too.)

So in Exclamatives

In exclamative responses, we use 'so' as a substitute for the verb before the subject and verb 'be', modal, or auxiliary verb. In this case, we do not need to invert the verb and subjects. For example:

A : We're out of cookies.

B : Oh, so we are!

A : I can bake you a cake.

B : So you can!

Do as Pro-verb Phrase

We can use 'do' instead of repeating the whole verb phrase.

A : Will you go to Sam's party?

B : I will go to the party if you do.

A : We went to the zoo.

B : Yes, we did too. (Yes, we went to the zoo too.)

A : Do you mind if I open the window?

B : Oh, please do.

A : I like pies.

B : As do I (like pies).

Do So as Pro-verb Phrase

'Do so' is used to refer to actions where the subject and verb are the same as the ones mentioned previously. For example:

A : I wanted them to stay.

B : You should have asked them to do so.

A : The flamingos eat upside down.

B : Why do they do so?

Nor, Neither and Either with Do

We can also use 'not … either', 'nor' or 'neither' when we want to avoid repeating a negative sentence. For example:

A : I don't think she'll be coming to the party.

B : Nor do I.

B : Neither do I.

B : I don't either.

Do It and Do That as Pro-verb Phrase

We use 'do it' when the subject is different from the one already mentioned and we want to avoid repeating the whole clause. For example:

A : He accidentally sent a message to the wrong person.

B : I do it all the time. (I send a message to the wrong person all the time.)

We use 'do that' for deliberate actions because it is more emphatic. We often use 'do that' to show contrast. For example:

A : Let's eat out tonight.

B : Let's not do that.

A : I want to take a break from all that and go on a trip.

B : I really think you should do that.

We can use a modal verb to avoid repeating the main verb phrase. Take a look at the examples:

A : You should go to the doctor.

B : I know I should, but I have so much work to finish.

A : Who can tell what will happen next season?

B : No one can (No one can tell what will happen next season).

A : Why can't she do it?

B : She can (do it), but she won't (do it).


We can also use 'a modal verb + do' to substitute for the main verb phrase. But keep in mind that do (so) could simply be omitted, and adding it would make the sentence formal.

A : You should go to the doctor.

B : I know I should do so, but I have so much work to finish.

A : I want to pilot an airplane!

B : But you can't do so.

The Particle 'To' as Pro-verb Phrase

A to-infinitive consists of the particle 'to' plus a bare infinitive. Since the bare infinitive verb can be omitted, the particle 'to' can act as a pro-verb for the to-infinitive. Take a look at the examples:

A : Make up your bed and brush your teeth.

B : I don't want to (make up my bed and brush my teeth).

C : What did he say?

A : He refused to make up his bed and brush his teeth when I told him to (make up his bed and brush his teeth).


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