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:
An Explanation of Fragments
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Why do we write sentence fragments?
We write sentence fragments because we often speak in sentence fragments!
- When we answer a question
- Q. "What are you doing?"
- A. "Eating."
- Q. "When are you going home?"
- A. "At five o'clock."
- When we give a command
- 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:
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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