"Thanks for helping me get the A+.  I'm going to grad school!" --Simon D., UCLA

  The Web site just for English students       November 28th, 2014 7:54pm      
click here to return to MyEnglishTeacher.net home
sign up for FREE English lessons, FREE updates and news, and great offers for English students!
visit our online TOEFL Help Center
have an English teacher correct your essay, composition, report or any other type of writing
have a professional correct or write your resume and cover letter!
see past lessons that have appeared on MyEnglishTeacher.net!
see this week's FREE English lesson
click here to enter the LIVE chat room
click here for great resources for teachers

buy textbooks and English books at great prices!

contact us--we'd love to hear from you!

 

Looking for something?


 

 

 

 



 see the answers now! 

 

Welcome to this week's writing lesson from

 MyEnglishTeacher.net

 

 

Tell me more!  Tell me more!

Lesson Topic: Sentence Fragments

Since he came to New York.
Because my dog loves it.
Unless you see me.

Is there anything wrong with these sentences?  All of these sentences end too quickly.  After reading these sentences, the reader asks questions because he/she needs more information.

Sentence Fragment The Reader Asks...
Since he came to New York.   Since he came, what (has he been doing)?
Because my dog loves it.    Because the dog loves it, (so what)?
Unless you see me.   Unless you see me, what (will happen)?

These sentences have incomplete ideas and end too quickly.  They are called sentence fragments.  Take a look at the following sentences:

I slept.
Jim flew the plane.
He cried.

Are these sentence fragments?  The answer is no.  Now, you may want to ask, “These last three sentences are shorter than the first three.  Why aren’t the last three sentence fragments?”  That’s a great question.  We’re glad you asked.  Let’s explain. 

book recommendation

cover Action Grammar: Fast, Easy Answers on Everyday Usage and Punctuation

The author, Joanne Feierman, focuses on the grammar most of us need in everyday life, from "Five Lies Your English Teacher Told You" to "Simple Business Verbs You Should Know." She also includes helpful sections on memos, letter writing, and e-mail etiquette, as well as an appendix of troublesome words and phrases, and words that are easy to misspell.  Click here for more information.

A sentence fragment has nothing to do with size or amount of words.  Therefore, a very short sentence with a complete idea is NOT a sentence fragment.  A sentence fragment is a sentence that is incomplete.  It is incomplete because it is either a phrase or a dependent clause.  

However, we do not want to get too complicated here.  Therefore, let's us define what a sentence is.  A sentence consists of 3 components:

1 subject the person, place, or thing performing or doing the action
2 verb the action
3 complete idea the reader isn't left waiting for another word

Take a look at this sentence:

I hit the ball.

Subject=I

Verb=hit

Is it a complete idea? Yes.

Therefore, this is a good sentence.

The ball is a direct object.  Not all sentences require a direct object.  For example

Birds fly.

Subject=birds

Verb=fly

Is it a complete idea? Yes.

There is no direct object here; however, it is still a complete idea and a good sentence.

Here's another example.

I take.

Subject=I

Verb=take

Is it a complete idea? No.

This sentence requires a direct object.  This sentence is called a sentence fragment.  It is actually the verb which determines whether the sentence requires a direct object or not.  If the sentence requires a direct object, it is called a transitive verb.  If the verb does not need a direct object, it is called an intransitive verb.  If you are unsure about some verbs, use a dictionary.  Dictionaries often denote transitive and intransitive verbs with the initials t.v. and i.v., respectively. 

So, what's a sentence fragment?  A sentence fragment is a sentence that lacks a subject or lacks a verb or is not a complete idea (one reason could be because it does not have a direct object if the verb needs one).

Here's one more example.

Murray takes the train to school Mom rides the bus.

Subject=Murray AND Mom

Verb=takes AND rides

Is it a complete idea? It is TWO complete ideas.  Therefore, this is a run-on sentence.  For more information on run-on sentences, please see our lesson on this subject by clicking here.

One more way to find a sentence fragment

Sometimes the sentence has a subject, verb, and direct object, but it is still a sentence fragment.  How?  If a sentence contains one of any of the words on the following 2 blackboards, the sentence requires a second part to finish the idea.  Therefore, if you use any of the words on these lists, you MUST add another part.

Blackboard #1

after   even if   once whenever  
although even though only if   whereas  
as   every time since whether or not  
as if   if   the first time whichever  
as soon as   in case though whoever  
because in the event that unless while  
before   just in case until   
by the time   now that   when  

If you use any of the following prepositions, which are usually used to create prepositional phrases, you MUST add another part, or you will probably write a sentence fragment.  

Blackboard #2

Prepositions

about   beneath in till  
above   beside into to
across besides like   toward
after between near   under
against beyond of   underneath
along   by   off   until  
among despite on up  
around down out upon
at during over   with
before except   since

within

behind for through   without  
below   from throughout    

For example

Look at the following sentence:

Because you wanted it.
Since you bought the radio.

Do these two sentences have subjects, verbs, and direct objects (if needed)?  YES.  Are they sentence fragments?  YES.  Why?  They both contain words from the two blackboards.  They need second parts:

I gave you the ice cream because you wanted it.
Since you bought the plane tickets, I will pay for the hotel room.

Now, these are good sentences.

How do you fix it?

We suggest 3 ways to fix sentence fragments:

book recommendation

cover Better Sentence Writing in 30 Minutes a Day features clear discussions of rules and strategies for good writing. Clear explanations and lots of exercises reinforce the skills needed for strong written communication. From filling in the blanks to joining short sentences into longer and more graceful combinations, this book will improve your writing. All the answers to the quizzes are given in the back of the book.  Click here for more information.

Method #1

Attach the sentence fragment to another sentence.  That other sentence could be before or after the sentence fragment. 

Sentence Fragment Fixed and Now a Complete Sentence
After seeing the doctor. I felt much better after seeing the doctor.

   -or-

After seeing the doctor, I felt much better.

Method #2

Add a subject, verb, or both to make the sentence complete.

Sentence Fragment Fixed and Now a Complete Sentence
Under the bed.   I found my socks under the bed.  

Method #3  

Take away the word or phrase that makes it a sentence fragment.

Sentence Fragment Fixed and Now a Complete Sentence
While Fred was in Paris. Fred was in Paris.

NOTE:  If you use method #3, make sure the meaning does not change.  The words and phrases listed above usually add important information to the sentence.  Therefore, if you take them out, the meaning may change.  Be careful!

Quiz

Directions: The following paragraph contains five sentence fragments.  Find the sentence fragments and correct them using one of the above two methods.  

My Wonderful Discovery

     After I had gotten up.  I ate my breakfast.  While I was eating breakfast.  I heard a squeaking sound at my door.  It was a little puppy that was crying.  I wept.  It was really cute.  That I picked it up and took it inside in order to give the puppy a big bowl of warm milk and a soft blanket.   I took the day off so that I could take him to the veterinarian.  The vet told me he was fine.  Because I had given him what he needed: milk and a warm blanket.  He still needed a home.  I asked all my friends to take him. They wanted the little guy.  However, they couldn't keep pets in their apartments.  By the time we got home.  Now, he is my pet and friend.

 



 

s.f.= sentence fragment 

 

 

My Wonderful Discovery

     After I had gotten up.  I ate my breakfast.  While I was eating breakfast.  I heard a squeaking sound at my door.  It was a little puppy that was crying.  I wept.  It was really cute.  That I picked it up and took it inside in order to give the puppy a big bowl of warm milk and a soft blanket.   I took the day off so that I could take him to the veterinarian.  The vet told me he was fine.  Because I had given him what he needed: milk and a warm blanket.  He still needed a home.  I asked all my friends to take him. They wanted the little guy.  However, they couldn't keep pets in their apartments.  By the time we got home.  Now, he is my pet and friend.

 

1.  The first s.f. is the first sentence.  It has the word "after," which is on blackboard #2. This sentence needs another part to complete the idea.

3.  "That I picked it up..." is the third s.f. because of the word "that."  This sentence is very long, but it is an incomplete idea.

2.  The third sentence is our second s.f.  It has the word "while," which is from blackboard #2.
 

"I wept" is a very short sentence, but it is NOT a sentence fragment.

 

 

4.  "Because I had given him..." is the fourth s.f.  The word "because" makes this sentence a dependent clause.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  "By the time we got home..." is our fifth s.f.  "By the time" is from blackboard #1.

 

 
The corrected version is. . .
 

My Wonderful Discovery

     After I had gotten up, I ate my breakfast.  While I was eating breakfast, I heard a squeaking sound at my door.  It was a little puppy that was crying.  I wept.  It was really cute.  I picked it up and took it inside in order to give the puppy a big bowl of warm milk and a soft blanket.   I took the day off so that I could take him to the veterinarian.  The vet told me he was fine because I had given him what he needed: milk and a warm blanket.  He still needed a home.  I asked all my friends to take him. They wanted the little guy.  However, they couldn't keep pets in their apartments.  By the time we got home, I had realized that I should keep him.  Now, he is my pet and friend.

 

 

 

  Rules to Remember!

1 Sentence fragments can make your writing very confusing.  Avoid sentence fragments in professional writing, formal writing, essays, business letters, and compositions.
2 Sentence fragments are written and acceptable in the following types of writing:
  • poetry
  • quotes and quoted speech (click here to see more about this subject).
  • plays

Sentence fragments are acceptable in these situations because the author wants to capture what was actually said or felt.

3 See our lesson run-on sentences to better understand this topic.

Do you want to send this lesson to someone?  Click here!

Want to see other lessons that have been published on MyEnglishTeacher.net?  Click here!

Looking for books to improve your writing?  Click here!

 

© 2001 MyEnglishTeacher.net.  All rights reserved.  No information or lessons contained on this page or any page in this Web site may be used without the expressed written permission of MyEnglishTeacher.net and its parent company Advanced Learning Center.  This lesson may only be copied and may only be used in a classroom for educational purposes exclusively.  When using in a classroom for educational purposes, this copyright notice MUST be included on all copies. The material contained on this page and all pages in this Web site are covered by copyright laws.  Therefore, no material may be used for another Web site, book, magazine, or any other use.  To use this material, please email us at staff@myenglishteacher.net  



©2000 Advanced Learning Center.  All rights reserved.  If you find an error on this Web site, please email us and let us know.  We appreciate all feedback and suggestions.