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Identifying Sentence Fragments

Identifying Sentence Fragments

Author: Martina Shabram

Identify or correct sentence fragments.

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Sentence Fragments

Source: [image of bridge, public domain,] [image of ice warning, public domain,] [image of cow jumping over the moon, public domain,] [image of cow in field, public domain,] [image of soup, public domain,]

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Hello students. My name is Doctor Martina Shabram. And I will be your instructor for today's lesson. I am genuinely excited to teach you these concepts. So let's get started.

What's on the schedule for this lesson? Well, we're going to learn about sentence fragments. We'll learn what they are, how to identify them, and finally, how to correct them when we see them.

If you recall, a sentence is made up of a subject plus a verb plus a full thought. So a sentence fragment is just a fragment, a scrap of a sentence. It's a phrase or a clause that does not meet all the criteria of a sentence.

Most of the time these fragments are missing the subject. But sometimes they'll be missing the verb instead.

So what does this all look like? Well, here's an example. See how there's a verb and a part of a thought, but we're missing the subject? We don't know who wanted to cross the bridge.

A common fragment sentence will be a dependent clause punctuated as if it were a full sentence. That might look like this. Here we have a subject and a verb, but we're missing the complete thought. That because is our clue, that not everything is here. These sentence fragments are important to spot in your writing. Because they can confuse your reader with unclear, half-formed ideas.

So how do we identify a sentence fragment then? The best thing to do is to ask yourself questions about a suspect sentence. These questions will help you sort out if a sentence is a fragment or complete.

Does this sentence have a subject? Does the sentence have a verb? Does this sentence form a complete thought? Since all complete sentences will include a subject, a verb, and a full thought, if you find yourself answering no to any of those questions, well, then you've got a fragment sentence.

So what if you've asked yourself all three questions and you still aren't sure? Then you can use this trick. When you read your sentence, tack the phrase, it is true that, to the beginning of that sentence. If the sentence still makes sense, then it's complete. If it doesn't, then you know you have a fragment. Let's practice.

Does this sentence have a subject? Yes, the cow. Does it have a verb? Again, yes, jumped. And is this a full thought? Yes. So if we add, it is true that, to the beginning it's still going to make sense. And that means that all signs are pointing to a complete sentence.

Let's try a different one. All we've changed is that we've added, when. So we know that we have a subject and a verb. But do we have a full thought? No. And we can see that when we try our trick out. It is true that when the cow jumped over the moon. Well, that doesn't make any sense.

So you know how to spot a fragment now. But how are you going to fix it? Well, if your sentence is missing a subject or a verb, then all you have to do is add one in. Let's try a sentence like that and see if we can fix it.

What are we missing? Well, do, we see a subject? Yes, the cow. And wow, there's a lot of information in the sentence. But do you see any action? No. We're missing the verb. So we can make this sentence complete by adding in a verb. How about sat?

OK. Here's another. We've got that verb. And I see a noun, which that could be the subject. But is that noun doing the action? Is the spoon doing the eating? No. So we're missing the subject. Let's add that in.

OK. And here's another kind of fragment. Here we have what? A dependent clause. We have a subject and a verb. But that because tells us that this is meant to complete a thought that isn't all here. When we have a dependent clause punctuated like a sentence, it's a fragment.

You'll see this often happen when the independent clause either follows or leads the dependent sentence fragment in a paragraph. So it's easy to make this mistake. And fortunately it's also easy to fix. We just need to pair this fragment sentence, this dependent clause, with an independent clause to make it complete-- like this.

And if we really wanted to, we could also take off that subordinating conjunction, that because. And then the dependent clause will be complete. She was hungry, independent clause, full sentence.

Easy, right? So what did we do today? Well, we learned the various ways a sentence can be fragmented. And we learned how to spot these fragments by asking ourselves questions or using the it is true trick.

Then we practiced completing fragments by adding in missing subjects or verbs, connecting dependent clauses with independent clauses, or removing subordinating conjunctions from dependent clauses.

Well students, I hope you had as much fun as I did. Thank you.

Notes on "Sentence Fragments"


(00:00 – 00:09) Introduction

(00:10 – 00:21) What are we going to learn today

(00:22 – 01:14) What is a sentence fragment?

(01:15 – 01:45) Identifying Sentence Fragments

(01:46 – 02:05) The “It is true that…” Trick

(02:06 – 02:46) Practice: is this a fragment?

(02:47 – 04:30) How To Fix Fragment Sentences

(04:31 – 05:01) Recap and Goodbye

Terms to Know
Sentence Fragment

A phrase or clause that does not meet all the criteria of a sentence.