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Rams Write: Sentence Fragments

Here you'll find a student-generated guide to writing and composition.

Introduction

Sentence fragments are phrases that are missing a subject, a verb, or both. A complete sentence requires a subject and a predicate, or a verb clause, and expresses a complete thought. Without one of these parts, a sentence is considered incomplete. Sentence fragments are very common mistakes in writing and speaking.

Sentence Fragments

Sentence Fragment:

A sentence fragment, also commonly known as an incomplete sentence, is a sentence that is missing a subject, a verb, or both.

 

Parts of a Complete Sentence:

  1. a subject (the actor in the sentence)
  2. a predicate (action or verb)
  3. complete thought (independent clause)

For additional information, see The Writing Center, UNC

 

From Grammar Girl

Screenshot of Grammar Girl

When people are trying to be brief, they might leave out important words that create fragments instead of sentences. Just because a sentence has a capital letter and punctuation, it doesn't mean it is a complete sentence.

Examples of Sentence Fragments:
Over the next hill!
A tree with wings!
On DVD December 19!

Grammar Girl - Sentence Fragments

Illustration of a Sentence Fragment

Ben Franklin's "Join or Die"

“Join or Die,” America's first political cartoon, is an example of a sentence fragment because it doesn’t have a subject. Who needs to join or else they die? The snake in the picture is also cut into fragments, illustrating the problem.

Examples

Example 1

Incorrect: At school.

Correct: The students are at school.

Explanation: The incorrect example is a fragment because it is missing a subject and a verb. It doesn’t tell who the sentence is about or what they are doing. By adding a subject and a verb it makes the sentence more clear and it becomes a complete sentence.

Example 2

Incorrect: Walked to the store.

Correct: James walked to the store.

Explanation: This is considered a sentence fragment, because it is missing a subject. By adding a person's name, it gives the sentence a subject. Who is the sentence about? The sentence is about James.

Example 3

Incorrect: Whenever I go shopping.

Correct: Whenever I go shopping, I am happy.

Explanation: This phrase is a fragment because even though it contains a subject and a verb, there is no dependent clause. In order to make it a complete sentence, you must add a dependent clause that expresses a complete thought.

Independent v. Dependent Clause

Independent Clauses: include a subject and a verb, a complete thought

  • Main idea of the sentence, not dependent on another clause for context
  • Complete sentences that can stand alone
  • Example: Hannah is going to do homework.

Dependent Clauses: include a subject and a verb, but not a complete thought

  • Dependent on the rest of the sentence for meaning
  • Function with independent clauses
  • Usually linked to an independent clause with a conjunction: after, before, when, because
  • Example: When she gets home from school.

Hannah is going to do homework, when she gets home from school.

This page was created by/ MLA Citations:

Fall 2018

Julia Synan, Framingham State U, Class of 2022

Sarah Russo, Framingham State U, Class of 2022

Aiyana Florence, Framingham State U, Class of 2022

 

Works Cited

"Benjamin Franklin - Join or Die." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die.jpg.

Long Beach, California State University. “Independent vs. Dependent Clauses.” CSULB, www.cla.csulb.edu/departments/english/wrl/handouts/independent-vs-dependent-clauses/.
 
O'Brien, Elizabeth. “Sentence Fragments.” English Grammar Revolution: Grammar Made Easy, 2009, www.english-grammar-revolution.com/sentence-fragments.html.
 

“Sentence Fragments.” Quick and Dirty Tips, Grammar Girl, 24 Jan. 2018, www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/sentence-fragments.

 

“Sentence Fragments by Shmoop.” Youtube, uploaded by Shmoop, 3 August 2014.