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15.1 Incorporating Core Sentence Components (Avoiding Fragments)

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognize fragments.
  2. Convert fragments to complete sentences.
  3. Write complete sentences.

A complete sentence includes two core components: a subjectThe part of a sentence that includes the main idea noun or noun phrase. and a predicateThe part of a sentence that includes the verb that carries the action of the sentence.. FragmentsWords that are presented as a sentence but that do not include both a subject and a predicate. are essentially dependent clausesA part of a sentence that presents an idea that cannot stand alone as a sentence. that cannot stand on their own. They result when you attempt to write a sentence without one of those two core components. You can use these pointers to recognize fragments:

  • When you read a sentence, ask yourself, “Who (or what) did what?” If you can answer that question, you are reading a sentence. If not, you are reading a fragment.

    Test these examples:

    Where are you?

    I am asking you where you are.

    I can answer the question, so it’s a sentence.

    Sandra ate lunch early.

    Sandra ate her lunch early.

    I can answer the question, so it’s a sentence.

    After the shelf came loose.

    Something happened after the shelf came loose, but I don’t know what.

    I can’t answer the question, so it’s a fragment.

    Fell near the door.

    I know something fell, but I don’t know who or what fell.

    I can’t answer the question, so it’s a fragment.

  • Fill in this blank with your sentence: Did you know that _________? If the completed question makes sense, you are reading a sentence. If it doesn’t make sense, you are reading a fragment.

    Test these examples:

    Lost my earring.

    Did you know that lost my earring?

    The test doesn’t make sense, so the original is a fragment.

    The dog with the white paws near the gate.

    Did you know that the dog with the white paws near the gate?

    The test doesn’t make sense, so the original is a fragment.

    Someone left the window open.

    Did you know that someone left the window open?

    The test makes sense, so the original is a sentence.

    Spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta.

    Did you know that spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta?

    The test makes sense, so the original is a sentence.

  • When you have a group of sentences within a paragraph, read the sentences backward so that no sentence can gain information from the preceding sentence. This technique will help sentence fragments stand out since they will not make sense alone.

Ultimately all these pointers are designed to get you into the habit of asking whether your sentences stand on their own. If you have problems with writing fragments, perform these tests until recognizing what constitutes a sentence becomes second nature to you. When you recognize a fragment, you can turn it into sentence by adding the missing component. Try these examples:

  • This fragment has no subject: Giggling and laughing all the way to school.

    One possible way to add a subject and turn this fragment into a sentence:

    The girls were giggling and laughing all the way to school.

  • This fragment has no predicate: A brand new iPhone with all kinds of apps.

    One possible way to add a predicate and turn this fragment into a sentence:

    A brand new iPhone with all kinds of apps isn’t cheap!

Just as sentences require a subject and a predicate, they also have boundaries. See Chapter 18 "Punctuation", Section 18.3 "Eliminating Comma Splices and Fused Sentences" and Chapter 18 "Punctuation", Section 18.4 "Writing with Semicolons and Colons" for guidelines on how to avoid fused sentences and comma splices and for options on how to punctuate between independent clausesA part of a sentence that includes both a noun and a verb and can form a stand-alone sentence..

Key Takeaways

  • A sentence must have both a subject and a predicate.
  • You can use some simple tests to check to see if an intended sentence is actually a fragment.

Exercises

  1. Choose three sentences from this section and remove the subjects to create fragments. Then replace the subjects with different subjects.
  2. Choose three sentences from this section and remove the predicates to create fragments. Then replace the predicates with different predicates.
  3. Decide whether each of the following items is a sentence or a fragment. For each fragment, identify whether the subject or predicate is missing and then rewrite each fragment so that it is a sentence.

    1. Broke his leg when he fell off his bike.
    2. Which way are you going to go?
    3. With her long, dark hair; her flowing dress; and her high heels.
    4. Walked for an hour after the rain started.
    5. Beth lives east of the high school but north of where I live.