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When Sentences Are Not Complete

fragmented sentencesWhen is a sentence not a complete sentence? What makes a sentence whole? To understand that, we need to look at what makes a sentence fragmented.



A fragmented sentence is a group of words that look like a sentence, but isn’t. For a group of words to be a sentence it needs to have at least one independent clause. An independent clause is any group of words that contain a subject and a verb and can stand on its own.

Examples of fragmented sentences

Here are some examples of fragmented sentences:


Lacking a proper subject-verb relationship

It may locate something in time and place with a prepositional phrase or a series of such phrases, but it's still lacking a proper subject-verb relationship within an independent clause.

For example: In Europe, during the last war and just before the truce.

This sentence places the reader in time and place, but there is no subject, no verb.


No subject-verb relationship

It describes something, but there is no subject-verb relationship.

For example: Working many hours in an effort to save her house.

This is a verbal phrase that wants to modify something, the real subject of the sentence (about to come up), probably the ‘she who was working so hard’.


Missing important part of verb string

It may have most parts of a sentence but still be missing an important part of a verb string.

For example: Some of the kids working on the Lego project last spring.

In the above example, an -ing verb form without any support can never be a verb.


Sentence subordinated by another idea

There may even be a subject-verb relationship, but the sentence has been subordinated to another idea by a dependent word and so cannot stand by itself.

For example: Even though she had the better grades and was by far the best at public speaking.

This sentence fragment has a subject, she, and two verbs, had and was, but it cannot stand by itself because of the dependent word (subordinating conjunction) even though.