How to understand and analyse the expression of "<somebody> returned a hero"? Is there an ellipsis?


I came across the expression of "<somebody> returned a hero" in the context below,

With Chonghou in prison, Zeng Jize, son of a celebrated general, Zeng Guofan, was sent to Russia to renegotiate the treaty. Zeng’s chief qualifications seem to have been arrogance and an unwillingness to compromise. The Russians were reluctant to go to war, and ultimately gave the Chinese much of what they wanted. Zeng returned a hero, and the hardliners learned a lesson of dubious value: never give ground to foreigners.

The short sentence as a whole is somewhat clear in its meaning. I reckon it means that Zeng returned to his homeland in glory like a hero.

If my reckoning is right, then I can say for sure there is an ellipsis in this expression. Maybe an "as" or "like" has been omitted. If that's the case, is “as” or “like” dispensable in all such expressions?

For instance, what about these sentence,

  1. He works (as) a cashier.

  2. She is employed (as) a fashion model.

  3. They are treated (like) children.

  4. This candy tastes (like) peppermint.

Are they still correct without "as" or "like"?


Posted 2015-12-03T01:54:04.717

Reputation: 4 361

Wait a minute! Is there a "being" there being omitted? "He returned being a hero"? "Being" can be omitted in some cases. Am I right? – dennylv – 2015-12-03T02:10:12.057


  • cannot omit as, 2. can omit as (but generally you'd also omit "fashion") - "She is employed a model", 3. cannot omit like, 4. cannot omit like. I'm not entirely sure what the exact rules are but only 2 sounds right.
  • < – slebetman – 2015-12-03T09:19:23.713

    denny, please refrain from making comments iike "I'm still waiting for an answer." Such remarks are distracting clutter, and time-consuming for the moderation team to clean up. As we've said before, you should plan on waiting at least a day. Besides, the Stack Exchange has built-in mechanisms to communicate this sentiment: unaccepted answers and bounties.

    – J.R. – 2015-12-03T10:04:19.480



    First, your four sentences are all wrong without the like or as.

    • He works as a cashier. He is a cashier. But not: He works a cashier. (That actually would mean he is trying to swindle or trick a cashier.)

    • They are treated like children. They get child-like treatment. But not: They are treated children. (That sounds like I'm pointing at a group of children who are going through chemotherapy.)

    So, why is "He returned a hero" considered acceptable English? Good question. (Great question, actually; that's why I upvoted it.) It's just the way we can use words like hero with verbs like leave and return; sometimes the "as" can be omitted. I could also say:

    He left a hero, he returned in disgrace.

    He left a pauper, he returned a rich man.

    You could also use this construct with a verb like finish:

    He played 12 years in the league as a premier forward. He finished his career a hero, having finally brought a championship to the city.

    As for why this doesn't readily carry over to sentences about employment status or the taste of candy, I don't know if I can explain that, or come up with any quick test that would let a learner know when the as can be omitted, and when it must be retained.


    Posted 2015-12-03T01:54:04.717

    Reputation: 108 123


    It only can mean "returned back to the place, this time as a hero"

    If he was a hero, and then stopped being a hero, and then become a hero once more, the phrase would be "Zeng returned to being a hero".

    Euan M

    Posted 2015-12-03T01:54:04.717

    Reputation: 2 400

    "being"! Yes, That's it! I guess "being" is the key to this sentence. – dennylv – 2015-12-03T02:12:15.480

    1@dennylv Though I agree that we can understand the sentence with ellipsis, I don't think we have to. For example, consider another simple sentence: The coffee was served hot. You might find more information about this construction on ELL; look for "adjunct" or "subject complement". – Damkerng T. – 2015-12-03T04:58:34.413

    I can't wait to know if the four sentences in my post are correct when "as" , "like" or "being" is omitted. – dennylv – 2015-12-03T05:07:47.770

    @dennylv: This answer is saying that only as can be omitted while still retaining the same meaning. Or is this answer also ambiguous to you? – slebetman – 2015-12-03T05:59:30.080

    @slebetman: I have to say this answer only answered a small part of my question.First, I want to know exactly what is omitted in this sentence. Second, I want to know if that is a common usage of ellipsis, and whether the 4 sentences in my post are acceptable without "as" or "like" . I think my question is kind of complicated and needs a comprehensive answer. – dennylv – 2015-12-03T06:37:04.923

    @dennylv: This answer basically says that the omitted word is "as" and of the 4 sentences only "as" is acceptable without "as" (that is, if you remove the "like" or "being" etc. the sentence will change meaning to "as"). So it answers the first and last part of your question directly. – slebetman – 2015-12-03T07:08:24.087

    1@slebetman I don't quite agree that "as" is omitted in "Zeng returned a hero". I guess that would be "being" being omitted. Honestly, I don't think "He works a cashier" is correct without "as". I'm not sure. – dennylv – 2015-12-03T07:18:22.483

    @dennylv: But that's not what this answer is saying. It's saying that "as" is omitted. – slebetman – 2015-12-03T07:37:18.307

    2As I said. I think you've misunderstood this answer. This answer says that the missing word is "as" since it is the only valid interpretation of the sentence "Zeng returned a hero". If Zeng was a hero then not a hero then became a hero again then the sentence must be "Zeng returned to being a hero" and it cannot be "Zeng returned a hero". The sentence "Zeng returned a here" can only mean "Zeng returned as a hero". – slebetman – 2015-12-03T07:54:31.293

    My fault. I'll edit the post to make it clearer. – dennylv – 2015-12-03T08:01:28.903

    @dennylv I think your expansion of the question is actuall a different question. I would happily answer those if you create a new question for them. As it is, I like the specificity of your original question, and the fact I could be specific in the answer, while touching on larger issues. Move the new supplementary question to an actual new question, and I'll happily answer. – Euan M – 2015-12-03T19:12:15.820


    It's a fairly rare, rather obscure and somewhat archaic (although still in use) form, where the verb return combines the action (of returning) and features of the word become.

    It's rarely used in other contexts.

    he returned a hero,

    he returned a coward,

    he returned a disgrace to his nation

    These should be understood as he became [something], as he returned.

    There is nothing missing, it's just a rare way of phrasing this kind of sentence, where the word "return" obtains an extra grammatical property of acting like "become".

    There are some more words that can obtain this property; combining motion and "morphing" - but you'll see them even more rarely in this form: "appear", "arise", "emerge", "depart".

    he departed a boy, and returned a man.


    Posted 2015-12-03T01:54:04.717

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