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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Grammar Basics: The Compound-Complex Sentence

Okay, so far we have gone over the simple sentence, the compound sentence and, the complex sentence. Today we are going to form compound-complex sentences. And guess what, It’s easier than it seems.

Grammar Basics: The Compound-Complex Sentence

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

What is a Compound-complex Sentence?

Simply put, the compound-complex sentence is exactly what it sounds like: the combination of a compound sentence and a complex together into one large sentence.

If you want to be more technical, this is the “official” definition according to one of my former professors:

A compound-complex sentence consists of more than one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. In many cases, you are simply adding a dependent clause to the beginning or end of a compound sentence, or you are adding another independent clause to a complex sentence.”

If you remember, a compound sentence is a sentence that contains two or more independent clauses (a.k.a complete sentences). A complex sentence is a sentence that contains one independent clause and one dependent clause (which usually has a subordinating conjunction). Therefore, all to have to do is put them together to make a compound-complex sentence.

A Couple of Examples

Compound Sentence: I can read for an hour, or I can write for an hour.

Compound-complex sentence: Unless I get interrupted, I can read for an hour, or I can write for an hour.

“I can read for an hour” is an independent clause, “I can write for an hour” is an independent clause, and “Unless I get interrupted” is a dependent clause. So, putting the compound sentence with the dependent clause creates the compound-complex sentence.

Complex sentence: Although time is short, I would like to go to the post office.

Compound-complex sentence: Although time is short, I would like to go to the post office, so I can get the letter mailed out today.

“Although time is short” is the dependent clause, “I would like to go to the post office” is an independent clause, and “I can get the letter mailed out today” is an independent clause. So again, by putting together the complex sentence with another independent clause creates the compound-complex sentence.

The Trick

To make understanding and creating compound-complex sentences (or any sentence, for that matter) is to break it down. Separate the independent clauses from the dependent clauses and examine how and where they fit. Do they make sense on their own? Do they make sense together? If you do this, over time, you will discover that your writing will improve drastically.

And, that is why I have spent the last few weeks going over each sentence type. By going back to the basics and understanding the hows and the whys of a sentence your message will be clearer, more powerful, and more effective in the long run.

Next Steps

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Grammar Basics: The Complex Sentence

So far we discussed the simple sentence and the compound sentence. Today we will discus the complex sentence.

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

What is a complex sentence?

Simply put, a complex sentence is the combination of a dependent clause and an independent clause. You know what an independent clause. A dependent clause is a clause that is dependent on another clause to make it a complete thought.

For example: Although I am busy, I will make the time to write 500 words today.

(The dependent clause is “Although I am busy.” The independent clause is “I will make time to write 500 words today.”)

>>If you take away the “although,” you will notice that “I am busy” is an independent clause. “I am busy” became a dependent clause when the “although” was added to the clause. The “although” is a subordinating conjunction.

Subordinating Conjunctions

When writing a complex sentence, you have to decide (consciously or unconsciously) which clause is more important. When that decision is made, you will add a subordinating conjunction to the lesser clause, rendering dependent on the independent clause. (Subordinate means something that is of a less importance or order.)

Let’s use the above example again but switch it around:

Although I will make the time to write 500 words today, I am busy. (The dependent clause is “although I will make the time to write 500 words today” and the independent clause is “I am busy.”)
This sentence sounds a little awkward, doesn’t it? Still, look at the first part of the sentence: “although I will make the time to write 500 words today.” It doesn’t stand on its own, does it? No, it doesn’t. That one little word – the subordinating conjunction – makes a world of a difference!

List of Subordinating Conjunctions

Here are some of the most common subordinating conjunctions that are used to create complex sentences:

after, although, as, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order that, once, rather than,  since, so that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, while

There are others. The most important thing to know about complex sentences is that they contain both a dependent and independent clause. Additionally, any group of words that isn’t a complete thought (whether it has a subordinating conjunction or not) is a dependent clause and must be connected to an independent clause in order to work.

Next Steps

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