Grammar Basics: The Sentence Fragment

Over the last few weeks, we spent a lot of time on sentences. We went over the simple sentence, the compound sentence and, the complex sentence, and finally, the compound-complex sentence. Now it is time to conquer sentence fragments.

Grammar Basics: The Sentence Fragment

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images (2014) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

What is a Sentence Fragment?

As you now know, a sentence is a group of words that are brought together into a complete thought. Additionally, in order to be a complete thought, a sentence must have at least a subject (noun) and a predicate (verb).

A sentence fragment, on the other hand, is a set of words brought together but is not a complete thought. It is usually missing either a subject or predicate.

There are several types of sentence fragments. A dependent clause (subordinate clause), which was discussed when you learned about complex sentences, is a type of sentence fragment. Other types of sentence fragments include, verbal phrases, participle phrases, appositives, and infinitive phrases. For simplicity’s sake, I will save the definition of each type and how they fit into sentences (or become fragments) for future posts.

A Couple of Examples

Sentence: Although took a long time, I finally finished the book.

Sentence: I finally finished the book.

Fragment: Although it took a long time.

Although it took a long time, but I finally finished the book” contains an independent clause and a dependent clause, along with a subject [I] and predicate [finished], making it a complete thought. “I finally finished the book” is an independent clause with a subject and predicate, thus, it is also a complete thought. “Although took a long time” does not contain a subject and predicate (although it does contain a pronoun and verb), nor does it express a complete thought. It is a fragment.

Sentence: A woman at the library checked out 50 books.

Fragment: A woman at the library.

Fragment: Checked out 50 books.

The woman at the library checked out 50 books” is an independent clause, contains a subject [woman] and a predicate [checked out], and expresses a complete thought, making it a sentence. “A woman at the library” is not an independent clause. It contains two nouns but no predicate or any verb at all. Also, it does not express a complete thought, therefore, it is a fragment. “Checked out 50 books” is also a fragment because it does not express a complete thought, nor does it include a main subject or predicate so it is not an independent clause. [“Checked out 50 books” is an example of a verbal phrase.]

The Trick

When in doubt, always look for the subject (main noun) and predicate (main verb). A complete sentence MUST always have at least one of each.

Also, ask yourself, “Does this express a complete thought?”

If a sentence makes sense, and contains a main subject and verb, there is a good chance that it is a sentence and not a fragment.

TO FIX A FRAGMENT: You need to attach the fragment to an independent clause, such as with subordinate clauses, or you need to somehow interject a subject and/or predicate into the phrase, either before or after. Or, you can rewrite the sentence altogether.

Next Steps

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