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

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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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For information about my proofreading and coaching services visit the work with me page.

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Grammar Basics: The Simple Sentence

Today, and for the next few weeks, I am going back to basics and giving you short tutorials on some important grammar basics. These basics are important because they lay the foundation for writing well. And, because it is the most fundamental to writing, we are starting with simple sentences.

Grammar Basics: Simple Sentences

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First of all, what is a sentence?

A sentence is a set of words that have been brought together into a complete thought. A sentence is also called an independent clause because it can stand on its own.

At it’s very minimum, a sentence must have a noun (a person, place, thing or idea that does an action) and a predicate (a verb that expresses an action or being).

For example: “Janet writes.” or “Pat types.” (These sentences are only two words but they both contain complete thoughts – along with one noun – Janet and Pat – and one predicate – writes and types.)

Of course, most sentences are longer and have several words in them such as prepositional phrases or complements, even simple sentences.

The Simple Sentence

There are several types of sentences: simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences. In this post we will focus on simple sentences.

The simple sentence contains only ONE independent clause.

For example: “Frank reads.” (As the above, this is as simple as it gets.)

For example:  “Frank reads a book.” (This sentence is a simple sentence because it contains one complete thought even though it includes a direct object (book).

For example: “Frank returned the book to the book shelf.” (This sentence is a bit longer but it is still a simple sentence because it only contains one complete thought. Frank – noun, returned – predicate, the – article adjective, book – direct object, to the book shelf – prepositional phrase.)

The simple sentence is just that – simple. Things get a little more complicated when we get involved with the other types of sentences and next week we are going to talk about compound sentences.

Next Steps

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