If a sentence is missing a verb, subject, predicate, or complement, it’s considered incomplete. This “error” is called a sentence fragment. Usually, fragments are pieces of sentences that have become disconnected from the main clause.
Before we like at fragments we must look at what makes a Complete Sentence:
1. It must have both a subject and a verb.
2. It must express a complete thought.
There are three main types of sentence fragments: sentences missing a subject, sentences missing a verb, and subordinate clause fragments.
- No verb
- The red car across the street. What about it? Why should I care about it?
- No subject
- Went to the store yesterday. Who went to the store?
- Subordinate clause fragment
- Because of the drought. What happened because of the drought?
A subordinate clause fragment [sometimes called a dependent clause fragment] will begin with a subordinate conjunction, a relative pronoun, or a relative adverb. You will also find a subject and a verb.
Identifying Sentence Fragments
When Identifying Sentence Fragments, the first you should look for is a verb. People often associate incomplete sentences with size, and thus they mistake fragments for short imperative sentences.
- Stand up
- Sit down
- Do not park here
Imperative commands verbs by themselves are complete sentences. Because the speaker is giving an order to whom ever is on the receiving end of this conversation.
A second type of short sentence often mistaken for fragments are subject + noun combo.
Here are 7 types of phrase fragments.
Gerund Phrase Fragment
A gerund phrase is a group of words beginning with a gerund. Example: Running in a marathon can cause permanent knee injury. (Running in a marathon is the subject of the sentence, and Running is the simple subject.)
When a gerund phrase is written alone, it is a gerund phrase fragment. Example: Running in a marathon.
How a gerund phrase fragment hides in dialogue: “Because I’m so athletic, I can do any sport. Swimming, playing football, and cycling are easy. Running too. In fact, I can even shoot a bow and arrow.”
Participial Phrase Fragment
A participle is a word that looks like a verb but acts like an adjective, and it usually ends in –ing, —ed, or –en. Examples: jumping contest, stunned student, forgotten memory (Jumping modifies contest, stunned modifies student, and forgotten modifies memory.)
A participial phrase is a group of words beginning with a participle. Example: The runner jumping over the hurdle caught her foot and fell. (The phrase jumping over the hurdle modifies runner.)
When a participial phrase is written alone, it is a participial phrase fragment.
Examples: Shocked and amazed by the student’s answer. Clapping their hands wildly. Shaken and afraid of the ceaseless howling they could hear in the night.
How a participial phrase fragment hides: Singing Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off” at the top of his voice. Mark walked into the wrong classroom. He was so into the song that that he didn’t notice the number on the door.
Infinitive Phrase Fragment
An infinitive is the word to plus a simple verb form (e.g., to kiss), and as a verbal, it can be a noun, adjective, or adverb. Example: I like to walk in the rain. (Here, like is the verb, not to walk.) An infinitive phrase is to + the simple verb form + any objects and/or modifiers. Example: My goal is to earn an A. (The infinitive phrase to earn an A acts together as a predicate nominative, or predicate noun.)
When an infinitive phrase is written alone, it is an infinitive phrase fragment.
Example: To deliver a message to the president.
How an infinitive phrase fragment hides: I promise, as your student body president, to fight the administration for a longer lunch period, more time between classes, and less homework. To begin a campaign against the bullies who try to make us feel small and unloved. To represent you the way no other candidate can.
Incomplete Verb Fragment
When all or part of the verb is left out, an incomplete verb fragment is created.
Example: Her boyfriend thinking she doesn’t know. (The helping verb is before thinking would make the verb complete and the sentence correct.)
How an incomplete verb fragment hides: Our assistant principal, Mr. Glade, accused me of stealing an extra milk at lunch. He saying my friend distracted the cafeteria ladies so I could grab it.
Appositive Phrase Fragment
An appositive is a word that renames a noun, often the subject of a sentence. An appositive phrase is a group of words renaming a noun.
How appositives are used Example: Mr. Hardy, my social studies teacher, is also my track coach. (In this sentence, teacher is the appositive. Mr. Hardy and teacher are the same person. The appositive phrase is the appositive plus all of its modifiers. Examples: For English class, I have Mrs. Thomas, the hardest teacher in the department. Cameron, my brother’s best friend, really gets on my nerves.
When an appositive phrase is written alone, it is an appositive phrase fragment.
Example: The worst possible time for a test.
How an appositive phrase fragment hides: The yearbook advisor scheduled senior portraits for Tuesday. The worst possible day for me to take a picture. I’m having eye surgery on Monday, and I’ll be wearing a patch to school the next day!
Prepositional Phrase Fragment
A prepositional phrase is a group of words beginning with a preposition. That phrase always ends with a noun or pronoun, the object of the preposition. A preposition is a word or small group of words acting together to show a relationship between two other words in a sentence. For example, an airplane can fly through a cloud, over a cloud, under a cloud, between two clouds, and in spite of clouds. The bold-faced prepositions show the relationship between airplane and another word, the object of the preposition.
When a preposition phrase is written alone, it is a prepositional phrase fragment. The same is true for a sentence that has multiple prepositional phrases but no independent clause containing a subject and verb.
Examples: At the top of her voice. After the chiming of the clock on the mantle.
How a prepositional phrase fragment hides: When I came home two hours after curfew, my mother was furious. She was yelling before I even got out of the car. Before parking even!
Dependent Clause Fragment
A dependent clause (or subordinate clause) is a group of words with a subject and verb, but it cannot stand alone like an independent clause (or main clause).
A clause is a group of words with a subject and verb. If that group of words can stand alone as a complete sentence, it is called an independent clause. If it cannot stand alone, it depends on the independent clause to make sense, so it is called a dependent clause.
A dependent clause ALWAYS begins with a subordinating conjunction, a relative pronoun, or a relative adverb.
When a dependent clause is used alone, that group of words becomes a dependent clause fragment. Of all the fragment types, this is the one I see the most.
Examples: Even though I’ve asked her out seven times. Which is why he stopped calling me. Where they live.
How a dependent clause fragment hides: My parents ask me questions constantly. They always want to know who my friends are. Whether or not there will be parent chaperones at a party. If I have done all my homework. They even ask me where I sit in class!
What is an example of an appositive fragment?
An appositive fragment will begin with a noun and usually include one or more clarifying phrases or subordinate clauses after it. Here are some examples: The unprepared student who was always begging for an extra pencil and a couple sheets of blank paper. A slacker wasting his afternoon in front of the television.
Why are fragments used in literature?
Some writers (and marketers) have embraced the use of sentence fragments — more specifically, the use of one- or two-word sentence fragments — as a way to convey emphasis in their writing, i.e., to make a point as forcefully as possible.
Fragments in Fiction
Writers can get away with fragments more easily in dialogue, or inner monologue in a direct character’s trains of thought.
Real people rarely speak in complete sentences – in fact real speech is so repetitive and fragmented we instinctively tidy it up for fiction purposes, so throwing in a few well-chosen fragments helps to restore a feeling of verisimilitude. In third person narration, on the other hand, it can sound like the author’s voice is intruding, so you have to be more careful.
They can also work a stylistic choice in poetry. Within T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” a modern waste land of crumbled cities is depicted. The poem itself is fragmented, consisting of broken stanzas and sentences that resemble the cultural debris and detritus through which the speaker (modern man) wades.
Fragmentation is a literary practice of the postmodern era. To fragment is to disintegrate, which is what the writers did to their themes and narratives. It was moving away from concepts of wholeness and conclusiveness and diving into interruptions, isolation, and instability.