Complete and Incomplete Sentences: Examples & Overview

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  • 0:02 What is a Complete Sentence?
  • 0:42 Examples of Missing Subjects
  • 1:04 Examples of Missing Verbs
  • 1:41 Sentence Fragments
  • 2:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
Writing complete sentences is essential to clear communication. In this lesson, we will look at how to write a complete sentence and analyze common errors students tend to make.

What Is a Complete Sentence?

A complete sentence must have two essential parts: a subject and a verb. A subject is a noun (a person, place, thing, or idea) that tells us what the sentence is about. A subject tells us 'who' or 'what.' The verb is the action of the subject, or it may be a linking verb. The part of the sentence that contains the verb is called the predicate. If either of these two essential parts is missing, the sentence is incomplete.

Another way to tell if a sentence is complete or incomplete is to see if the sentence expresses a complete thought. If there is not a complete thought, if you feel left hanging when you read the sentence, it probably is incomplete.

Examples of Missing Subjects

Here are some 'sentences' that are incomplete because they are missing subjects:

  • 'Went to the store.'
  • 'Ran into the woods.'
  • 'Ate three plates of nachos.'

Take a second to complete the sentence with subjects. Here are some possibilities:

  • 'Jan went to the store.'
  • 'The deer ran into the woods.'
  • 'My cousin, Jack, ate three plates of nachos.'

Examples of Missing Verbs

These 'sentences' are missing verbs. Again, try completing the sentences by adding verbs of your own:

  • 'The incredible performing artist from Toronto.'
  • 'Sixteen chubby chickens.'
  • 'The classroom full of first graders.'

When we read the above phrases, we feel that we are left hanging. We ask, 'Well, what about the classroom full of first graders?' Let's add some verbs:

  • 'The incredible performing artist from Toronto won a Grammy.'
  • 'Sixteen chubby chickens pecked every grain of corn from the barn floor.'
  • 'The classroom full of first graders laughed at their teacher's joke.'

Sentence Fragments

Incomplete sentences are also called sentence fragments; they are pieces of sentences. Sometimes we see writers use fragments purposefully in fiction, but in academic writing, sentence fragments are generally frowned upon. So, why should we use complete sentences?

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