Sentence Fragments

What is a sentence fragment?

A sentence is a grammatical unit that has a subject (noun or pronoun), a verb, and usually other words, (a combination of  the eight parts of speech: verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, conjunction, preposition, interjection) to complete the thought. Complete sentences convey complete thoughts. Sentence fragments, unless artfully used, suggest that thinking is underveloped, because only a piece of a complete thought is presented. A fragment usually lacks a subject (noun or pronoun) or a verb but has been punctuated as a complete sentence.

Example of a sentence fragment:  

  • I adore.

This sentence has a subject and a verb but no words to complete the thought.  "Adore" is a verb that needs an object. You can turn this fragment into a sentence by completing the thought:

  • I adore staying up until 4 a.m. writing papers.
  • I adore my dog.

Some simple sentences are adequate with a subject and a verb because the verb doesn't need an object to make sense:

  • I eat.

Sentence fragments often are used in conversation or dialogue as simple answers to questions.

  • "What's the weather like today?" "Not bad. Good for a walk."
  • "What's in your satchel?" "A book."
  • "What will you be doing tonight?" "Dinner, movie and sleep."

Example of a sentence fragment missing a verb:

  • The dress red.

 You can turn this fragment into a sentence by completing the thought:

  • The dress is red.

Most unacceptable sentence fragments are phrases that belong to the previous sentence.

Example:

  • Genna and Zach worked on their art project. Instead of going to the meeting about overpopulation.

The second "sentence" is a fragment because it has no noun or pronoun as a subject and is an incomplete thought. The second phrase should be part of the previous complete sentence:

  • Genna and Zach worked on their art project instead of going to the meeting about overpopulation.

In this second example, words have to be moved so the sentence and phrase fragment make sense together:

  • She is still productive. Cornelia Lacey who was active in the Civil Rights Commission.

The corrected sentence merges the two thoughts:

  • Cornelia Lacey, who was active in the Civil Rights Commission, is still productive.

TIP: One way to recognize sentence fragments is to learn which words often signal phrases or incomplete thoughts, such as: although, because, especially, even, except, for example, if, including, instead of, so that, since, such as, that, which, who, and when. Sentence fragments don't begin necessarily with such tip-off words, but when you see one in your writing, check to make sure it doesn't introduce a fragment.

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