Sentence Fragments

If you remember, simple sentences in English must have three things: a subject and a verb, and they need to be a complete idea.

If a sentence has a subject, but it doesn’t have a verb, or it has a verb, but it doesn’t have a subject, or if the sentence is not complete, we call it a sentence fragment.

Let’s look at examples of sentence fragments, and see if you can find the mistake?

Technology the way we communicate.

The sentence has a subject; it is talking about technology. But it doesn’t have a verb. Read the sentence again. What verb would you put after the word technology? You could put changes, or maybe dictates, or maybe you are thinking of another verb.

 Technology CHANGES the way we communicate.

Whatever verb you might use in the sentence; it just needs a verb.

 Let’s look at another example.

The factory polluting the stream.

 The sentence has a subject and it has a verb, but because the verb is an ing form, it needs a helping verb. To correct the sentence we need to use the helping verb is:

The factory IS polluting the stream.

How about this sentence?

Asked his coworker to design his office.

 It sounds like a good sentence, but there’s something missing. We don’t know who asked the coworker. There’s no subject. To correct the sentence we need to use a name or a pronoun.

HE asked his coworker to design his office.

 Again, in this sentence, the subject is missing.

 Texted her friends about tonight.

 It should read,

SHE texted her friends about tonight.

 Our next sentence has a subject and a verb, but still it is a fragment because the verb needs an object to be complete.

 The students brought.

This sentence does not tell us what the students brought, so it is not a complete idea. To correct the sentence we need to give it an object:

 The students brought their books, or The students brought their lunches.

When we are writing, especially on a test, it is easy to leave out a subject or a verb, or not to finish the idea. But in order for a sentence to be good, all three must be included.

Let’s look at complex sentences now. Here’s where we have some trouble. Remember, a complex sentence is a dependent clause with an independent clause. In other words, the dependent clause needs the independent clause to be a complete sentence.

 Before John leaves work everyday, he cleans his desk and puts away his papers.

If we only said, Before John leaves work everyday,… it would be a fragment because it needs an independent clause to make it complete.

 Let’s look at these two sentences. One is a dependent clause; a fragment, and the other one is an independent clause; a complete sentence. How would you correct the mistake?

Because non-genetically modified foods are fast becoming the norm in the United States. Manufacturers are producing more non-GMOs.

 You can correct this mistake easily by just adding a comma after states, and making these two sentences into one.

Because non-genetically modified foods are fast becoming the norm in the United States, manufacturers are producing more non-GMOs.

Run-on Sentences

Another error that students often make is putting two sentences together. We call these run-on sentences. A run-on sentence is two independent clauses put together without the correct punctuation.

For example:

 I studied biology in college it was difficult for me.

There are two ways you can correct this run-on.

First, you can make two sentences: I studied biology in college. It was difficult for me.

Or you can join them together with the conjunction and:  I studied biology in college, and it was difficult for me.

Or you can use an infinitive, so the sentence reads: It was difficult for me to study biology in college.

Let’s look at one more example:

Public safety should be our first concern more research is needed before GMOs are sold on the market.

The sentence is difficult to read. There are two ideas competing in one sentence. You can correct the error by making two sentences, or by making a complex sentence.

To make two sentences, simply put a period after concern, and now you have two sentences.

Public safety should be our first concern. More research is needed before GMOs are sold on the market.

 Or you can make a complex sentence by adding because at the beginning and a comma after concern.

Because public safety should be our first concern, more research is needed before GMOs are sold on the market.

Comma Splices

Another common mistake similar to run-on sentences we need to talk about is comma splices. A comma splice is when we put two complete sentences together with only a comma.

Such as in the follow example:

The school installed a new sidewalk, the students still walked on the grass.

To correct this problem, as we did with run-on sentences, we can make two sentences, we can make a compound sentence, or we can make a complex sentence.

The school installed a new sidewalk. The students still walked on the grass.

The school installed a new sidewalk, BUT the students still walked on the grass.

After the school installed a new sidewalk, the students still walked on the grass.


Review

If a sentence has a subject, but it doesn’t have a verb, or it has a verb, but it doesn’t have a subject, or if the sentence is not complete, we call it a sentence fragment.

A run-on sentence is two independent clauses put together without the correct punctuation.

A comma splice is when we put two complete sentences together with only a comma.

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