Sentence Fragments
    On this page, you will find:


The Complete Sentence vs. The Sentence Fragment

    A sentence fragment is part of a sentence set off by a capital letter and final punctuation.

    • Ex. The circus clowns under the big top.


    A complete sentence or main clause contains a subject and a verb and is not a subordinating clause, a clause beginning with a word such as "because" or "who." Check out our page on subordinating conjunctions.

    • Ex. The circus clowns work under the big top.
      • clowns = subject
      • work = verb


    A sentence fragment:

    • lacks a verb
      • The colorfully adorned circus clown.
    • or lacks a subject
      • Tumbled across the entire length of the arena.
    • or is a subordinate clause, or dependent clause, not attached to a complete sentence
      • Into the lap of a ferocious, hungry lion.


    Placed together, these fragments form a complete sentence!

    • The colorfully adorned circus clown tumbled across the entire length of the arena and into the lap of a ferocious, hungry lion.


    This sentence has:


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    An Explanation of Fragments

    Why do we write sentence fragments?

    We write sentence fragments because we often speak in sentence fragments!

    • When we answer a question
      • Example:
        • Q. "What are you doing?"
        • A. "Eating."
        • Q. "When are you going home?"
        • A. "At five o'clock."
    • When we give a command
      • Example:
        • Remember running through the halls in elementary school?
        • Your teacher yelled "No running!"
        • She or he spoke in a sentence fragment!


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    Identifying and Revising Sentence Fragments

    To help you edit your paper, use the following check list:

    • Find the verb.
    • Find the subject.
    • Make sure the sentence is not a subordinate clause.


    1) Find the verb:

    • Look for the verb in your sentence.
    • If you do not have one, then your sentence is actually a sentence fragment.
      Fragment: Students in purple boots and green mittens.
      • Ask yourself, "Where's the verb? Can I circle it?"
      Revised: Students in purple boots and green mittens walk through a terrible storm.
      • The verb in the sentence is "walk."


    2) Find the subject:

    • Once you've located the verb, look for the subject in your sentence.
    • If you do not have a subject, then your sentence is actually a sentence fragment.
       


       
       

      Fragment: Ran across the street and up a tall, newly blooming tree.

      • Ask yourself, "Who or what performs the action?"
      Revised: The kitten ran across the street and up a tall, newly blooming tree.
      • The subject of this sentence is "kitten."
      Remember: There is a type of sentence where "you" is understood to be the subject:
      • (You) Pick up the dirty laundry off the floor.


        In all other cases, a subject is necessary for a sentence to be complete.

    3) Make sure the clause is not subordinate.

    • A subordinate clause is a clause (with a subject and a verb) introduced by a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun.
    • A subordinate clause is a sentence fragment.
    • Subordinate clauses should not be used as complete sentences.
    • Subordinate clauses should be joined with complete sentences.
      Fragment: When the girl ran across the street
      • The subordinating conjunction (when) leads us to ask, "What happened when the girl ran across the street?"


      Revised: When the girl ran across the street, she was nearly struck by a car.

      Fragment: The girl who ate all the cake.

      • In this case, the relative pronoun (who) leads us to ask, "What happened to the girl who ate all the cake?"


      Revised: The girl who ate all the cake has icing on her chin.


    NOTE: Questions beginning with a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun are complete sentences.

    Here are some examples of questions, or interrogative sentences, which begin with a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun:

    • Who is coming to our party?
    • Which games should we play first?
    • When will the clowns arrive?


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