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Sentence Fragments

Fragments are incomplete sentences, usually subordinate clauses of a complex sentence. The reason they, like most grammatical errors, are considered incorrect is because they obscure clarity.

To explain fragments fully, it is necessary to say a few words about the structure of compound and complex sentences. Briefly, the difference between them is that compound sentences contain two simple sentences joined by a conjunction or connective (like 'and' or 'but'); both clauses (parts) of the sentence can stand alone and still make sense, therefore they will not be fragments since each will have a subject and a verb. Hence:

The boys played football and the girls went swimming.

main clause conjunction main clause

As you can see, two simple sentences, connected by the conjunction 'and', make one compound sentence but as both contain a subject and a verb, they are of equal importance and make sense alone, neither is a fragment.

However, in complex sentence, the second clause, called the subordinate clause, independent on the main clause for its meaning. Hence:

The match was abandoned because of the rain.

main clause conjunction subordinate clause

The first part of this complex sentence, the main clause, can stand alone and still make sense but the second part, the subordinate clause, cannot, therefore it might, if used alone, be a fragment.

There must also be a strong, clear and correct connection between the subject and the verb in sentence for it to be prevented from being a fragment. Thus:

Running as fast as he could to catch up.

is a fragment because it tells the reader what is happening but there is no way of knowing why the subject is participating with the verb and the subject is not clearly established. To correct this, an additional clause needs to be added, establishing the subject’s relationship with the verb, like this:

The boy was running as fast as he could to catch up.

Simply by adding clear subject, the fragment becomes a sentence. Try always to write complete sentences in your essays, avoiding the confusion of fragments.

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