Every complete sentence must have, at a minimum, a subject and an object. The sentence must also express a complete thought. If a sentence is lacking one of these three essential components, it is a sentence fragment. Below are several examples of common sentence fragments, along with possible corrections.
Components of a Sentence
Every sentence must have at least three components to be considered a complete sentence:
- The sentence must express a complete thought - we need to know what it is about
- The sentence must have a subject - a person or thing that the sentence is about. This is usually a noun or a pronoun.
- The sentence must have an action - a verb, something the subject of the sentence is doing.
Sentences can also have:
- Objects: Things that an action is performed on
- Adjectives or adverbs: Descriptive words
- Phrases or dependent clauses: Words that provide additional information to the reader
Defining a Sentence Fragment
A sentence fragment is a sentence that:
- Does not express a complete thought. Example: Joe is. This sentence is lacking a complete thought - Joe is "something" - but we don't know what Joe is.
- Is lacking a subject. Example: Eating chicken. This sentence is lacking a subject - who or what is eating chicken?
- Is lacking an action. Example: A book without a cover.What about a book without a cover? Is the book doing something? Is someone doing something to the book? We don't know, because there is no subject
- Is a dependent clause, standing alone. Example: And I went to the store. The conjunction "and" makes this clause dependent. A dependent clause can't stand alone, it needs to be attached to an independent clause
Correcting Sentence Fragments
The appropriate correction for sentence fragments depends on what is lacking. The sentence can be corrected by adding in a subject, or verb, joining the dependent clause with an independent clause, or completing the thought.
For example, each of the sentence fragments listed above can be corrected:
- "Joe is" can be corrected by adding an adjective describing what Joe is being. For example, "Joe is smart." The sentence now expresses a complete thought.
- "Eating chicken" can be corrected by adding a subject. "Ann is eating chicken." "Eating chicken" could also become the subject. "Eating chicken is healthy." In this second correction, the subject is eating chicken, and it is doing the action of being healthy.
- "A book without a cover" can be corrected by adding an action, and either a subject or object. "I am reading a book without a cover." I is the subject, am reading is the action, a book becomes the object.
- "And I went to the store" can be corrected by joining the dependent clause with an independent clause. "I went to the movies and I went to the store." I went to the movies is an independent clause, so the dependent clause is now joined to an independent clause.
Examples of Sentence Fragments
Here are some additional examples of sentence fragments, with corrections.
This is a sentence fragment because it is a dependent clause. "Since" is a subordinating conjunction, and this sentence can't stand alone.
We could correct this sentence by removing the word "since," so the sentence would simply read "I like fishing." I am the subject, like is the verb, fishing is the object.
We could also correct this sentence by joining the dependent clause with an independent clause: I am going to the lake, since I like fishing.
Again, we have a sentence fragment because of the subordinating conjunction "which."
This sentence could be corrected by removing "which is why." The sentence "I cried." is a complete sentence. I is the subject, cried is the action.
The sentence could also be corrected by joining it with an independent clause. I was sad, which is why I cried.