Sentence Fragments


A sentence fragment occurs when a group of words is punctuated as a sentence but lacks a subject, a verb, or both.


The boys on the side of the road.

Ran up the street and back down the sidewalk.

Although the moon is full.


Sometimes we write fragments because we accidentally put a period in the middle of a single thought:



The boys on the side of the road got in trouble.

For playing in traffic.


Other times, sentence fragments fool us because they appear to have the components of a sentence but
lack the proper form of a verb.



The men going to the movies.

The dog to bark loud.

or include a subordinating conjunction.



Since I'm going without you


The boys are going to the movies.

The dog barked out loud.

Since I'm going without you, I'll buy you a souvenir.


Identifying Fragments:

Fortunately, sentence fragments are easy to correct once you identify them. Use these three steps to identify fragments:


  1. Find the verb.
  2. Find the subject.
  3. Make sure the clause is not subordinate.


To determine whether a clause is subordinate, and therefore unable to stand on its own, look first for a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun.


Subordinating conjunctions:

after, although, as, because, if, once, since, than, that, unless, until, when, where, whereas, while


Relative pronouns:

that, which, who, whoever.


These words almost always signal subordinate clauses, which do not express complete, independent thoughts and must be attached to main clauses.


Some words may introduce either subordinate clauses or complete questions:

how, what, when, where, which, who, whom, whose, why.


A word group beginning with one of these words is a fragment unless (1) it is attached to a complete main clause, or (2) it asks a question.


Correcting Fragments

Correcting Subordinate Clauses

Subordinate clauses contain both subjects and verbs, but they always begin with a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun. To correct a subordinate clause set off as a sentence, combine it with the main clause or remove or change the subordinating word to create a main clause.

Correcting Fragments Consisting of Verbal or Prepositional Phrases

A verbal phrase or a prepositional phrase is not a complete sentence. A verbal phrase consists of an infinitive (to choose), a past participle (chosen), or a present participle and a gerund (choosing), together with any objects or modifiers it may have. Fragments consisting of verbal phrases are most easily corrected by combining them with the main clauses they are related to. Verbal phrases can be converted into main clauses only by rewriting.

A prepositional phrase (in her strength) consists of a preposition (such as in, on, to and with) together with its object and modifier. A prepositional phrase cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. It may be combined with a main clause or rewritten as a main clause.

Fragment: Falling gave her confidence. In her strength.

Revised by combining: Falling gave her confidence in her strength.

Revised by rewriting: Falling gave her confidence. She learned to trust her strength.

Correcting Fragments Lacking a Subject or Verb

Any word group lacking a subject or a verb or both is not a complete sentence. We often follow a noun with a phrase or subordinate clause that modifies the noun. No matter how long the noun and its modifier are, they cannot stand alone as a sentence.

Fragment:Veterans who fought in Vietnam. They are finally being honored.

Revised: Veterans who fought in Vietnam are finally being honored.


I. Correct any sentence fragment below either by combining it with a main clause or by rewriting it as a main clause.

     Human beings who perfume themselves. They are not much different from other animals. Animals as varied as insects and dogs release pheromones. Chemicals that signal other animals. The chemicals sometimes repel other animals. But more often they perform a sexual function by attracting a member of the opposite sex. Human beings have a diminished sense of smell. And do not consciously detect most of their own species' pheromones. The human substitute for pheromones may be perfumes. Especially musk and other fragrances derived from animal oils.

II. Revise the following paragraph to eliminate sentence fragments by combining them with main clauses or rewriting them as main clauses.

     Hiring Steele as the manager of the baseball team was a stupid move. Or a very clever maneuver. Depending on whether one is thinking like a fan or like the team's owner. Fans claim it was stupid. Because Steele is hard to get along with and unfair. They say he is also a poor manager. Failing to make the best use of the team's talents. And creating friction among the players. But the team's owner may have had a good reason for hiring such manager. Some people think the owner hired Steele only temporarily. In order to make the team less attractive to unfriendly buyers. Who have been threatening a hostile takeover of the team. Hiring Steele could have been intended to prevent the takeover. And in the long run save the team. Not ruin it.


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