Fragment Check: How to Fix Sentence Fragments

A sentence fragment is a group of words that looks like a sentence but isn’t a complete one. Sentence fragments usually miss a subject or verb or do not express a complete thought.

What are Sentence Fragments?

Fragments are incomplete sentences. They typically consist of two or more words that do not express complete thoughts. A complete sentence must include:

  • A subject (person or thing doing the action).
  • A verb (the action the subject undergoes).
  • A complete thought.

A group of words without these factors is a sentence fragment and cannot stand on its own. Sentence fragments are often left out of speech because they can make writing sound awkward and disjointed. 

However, sentence fragments can be used in casual writing or informal speech. They are less common in formal writing, such as a business letter, because they can confuse readers. 

For that reason, it’s essential to be careful when using sentence fragments. 

The Types of Sentence Fragments

There are three major types of sentence fragments.

1. Sentence Fragment Missing a Subject

A group of words is a sentence fragment when it lacks a subject. The absence of a subject makes the sentence incomplete and challenging for the reader to understand. In the example below, the sentence makes no sense as it does not show ‘who’ is acting.

Fragment: Ran across the room.

Complete: James ran across the room.

2. Sentence fragment missing a verb

A sentence may lack a verb, making it incomplete and meaningless. Example of a sentence fragment that lacks a verb:

Fragment: They lunch after Church.

Complete: They ate lunch after Church.

In the example above, the fragment lacks the verb ‘ate’ and is difficult to understand. However, the introduction of the verb ‘ate’ in the second sentence makes the sentence complete.

3. Sentence fragment that is a dependent clause

A group of words that contain a verb and subject but do not express a complete thought is a fragment. Dependent clauses are sentence fragments that cannot make sense without adding an independent clause.

Fragment: Because he passed the exam.

Correct: John was promoted because he passed the exam.

The fragment contains a verb and a subject in the example above but does not express a complete thought. The introduction of an independent clause makes the sentence complete and meaningful.

Fragment Check: How to identify incomplete sentences

A complete sentence must contain a verb, a subject, and must express a complete thought. When a group of words lacks any of these, it is a sentence fragment.

Identifying sentence fragments by proofreading your work may be challenging and time-consuming. It is also not a guaranteed way to discover incomplete sentences.

To quickly check incomplete sentences in your writing, use online sentence fragment check software. Such software helps you identify sentence fragments and adjust them.

How to Fix a Sentence Fragment

Fixing sentence fragments can be a challenging task. But with the following practices, you can quickly fix a sentence fragment.

1. Your sentence must always have a subject.

A group of words must have a subject to be complete. You can fix a subject fragment by adding a subject to it.

Your sentence must contain a verb

To complete your sentence, introduce the appropriate verb to it. A sentence without a verb makes no sense to the reader and is thus a sentence fragment.

Your sentence should have a dependent and independent clause

A group of words that cannot stand on its own is a dependent clause; they usually begin with subordinate conjunction like because, when, although. To fix a sentence fragment, introduce an independent clause or remove the subordinate conjunction.

A laptop on a brown wooden table, with a hands typing on its keyboard.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Bottom line

Sentence fragments can be significant in an informal or casual context to convey feelings or emotions. However, it is best to avoid them in formal writing, as it leaves your writing incomplete and meaningless.

A complete sentence must have a subject and a verb and express a complete thought. This article has provided tips on how to fix a fragment to make it a complete sentence.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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