Sentence fragment definition: A sentence fragment is a type of incomplete sentence that lacks the necessary grammatical elements to make an independent clause.
What is a Sentence Fragment?
A sentence fragment is exactly as it sounds: a “fragment” of a sentence. In other words, it is only part of a sentence, not a complete one. Since it isn’t a complete sentence, it must be reworked to be grammatically correct.
In order to be a grammatically correct complete sentence, a sentence needs a subject (explicit or implied) and a verb. Sentence fragments lack one or both of these elements, both of which are required to form an independent clause.
Example Sentence Fragments
- In so many ways.
- This fragment does not have a subject or a verb. Rather, it is a prepositional phrase. It is not a complete sentence.
- Once we leave for the movie.
- This fragment has a noun, “we,” and a verb, “leave,” but it isn’t a complete sentence. It is subordinating clause.
Why are Fragments Incorrect?
Why are sentence fragments bad? Sentence fragments should be avoided at all costs. Only very, very experienced writers may use fragments for stylistic purposes. All other writers should avoid sentence fragments in their writing.
If a writer has a fragment in his writing, it was most likely written as a fragment without that intention. Therefore, it needs to be corrected.
Writers can aim to avoid sentence fragments with clear and purposeful editing. Even if a writer accidentally includes a fragment, he can check for these during the revision process.
In order to spot a sentence fragment, a writer needs to make sure each sentence is an independent clause with a subject and a verb.
Types of Sentence Fragments
There are various kinds of sentence fragments, and by understanding each kind, we are better able to locate them in our writing.
What are subordinating clauses? Subordinating clauses are actually dependent clauses. Even though a subordinate clause contains a subject and a verb, a subordinating clause is dependent upon an independent clause. Therefore, it cannot stand alone.
Subordinating clauses need independent clauses attached to them in order to be complete sentences.
Examples of subordinating clause fragments:
- Before you go to the store.
- Correction: Before you go to the store, please stop to get gas.
- Although I thought I knew the answer.
- Although I thought I knew the answer, I hesitated to answer the question.
What are participle phrases? A participle phrase is a modifier. Participle phrases cannot stand-alone because they lack a subject and a verb.
Participle phrases need to modify a noun, and they need to be a part of an independent clause.
Examples of participle phrase fragments:
- Lost in the woods.
- Correction: Lost in the woods, the dog could not find its owner.
- Eating the entire bowl of ice cream.
- Correction: I was so annoyed with my brother, eating the entire bowl of ice cream.
What are infinitive phrases? An infinitive phrase starts with an infinitive and ends with other words.
Examples of infinitive phrase fragments:
- To cook dinner.
- Correction: I was preparing to cook dinner.
- To respond to your mother in a rude tone.
- Correction: To respond to your mother in a rude tone is disrespectful.
A verb phrase might look like it can stand-alone; however, a verb phrase lacks a subject to make an independent clause.
Examples of verb phrase fragments:
- Makes a good impression.
- Correction: He makes a good impression.
- Built a sandcastle for her.
- Correction: Grandfather built a sandcastle for her.
What are appositives? An appositive is a noun that renames or re-identifies another noun. Appositives can rename subjects but they are not subjects themselves.
Appositives do not contain verbs, either, and therefore cannot stand alone as complete thoughts.
Examples of appositive fragments:
- The one with the wagging tail.
- Correction: I like that dog—the one with the wagging tail.
- My favorite person.
- Correction: Mary, my favorite person, is visiting this weekend.
Summary: What are Sentence Fragments?
Define sentence fragment: the definition of sentence fragment is a sentence that lack some essential component.
To sum up, sentence fragments:
- cannot stand alone
- lack a subject and a verb
- are grammatically incorrect
- need to be corrected