How to Fix a Sentence Fragment

Instructor: Lesley King

Lesley has taught ESOL for many years, holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, and a doctorate degree in Instructional Leadership.

When you are writing, you want to ensure that everyone understands what you are trying to say. Therefore, you must write in complete sentences. In this lesson, you will learn how to tell the difference between a complete sentence and a fragment as well as how to correct any fragments in order to make the sentence whole.

What is a Fragment?

When we receive only a portion of something, we are receiving a fragment of it. This fragment is not a complete amount. Just think if you only received a fragment of your paycheck! Would you understand the situation right away? Probably not. More importantly, would you be able to use the check if it was not complete? No, you wouldn't. You can view a fragment of a sentence in the same way. Important information that makes the sentence usable is missing.

paycheck example

A fragment is a group of words that are presented like a complete sentence but do not express a complete thought. A complete thought provides enough details so that the reader is not confused. In other words, it tells the reader everything they need to know in order to understand who did what.

How Will I Know if There is a Fragment?

You will know you have a fragment because when you read it as a sentence, you will notice that something is missing and you will be left asking yourself questions like 'who' or 'what'. The information cannot stand alone to provide fully understandable information. When there is a fragment, we are missing a subject, predicate, or both. The subject of a sentence tells us who or what the sentence is all about. The predicate tells us what the subject did. While the heart of the predicate is the verb, also known as the action word, the predicate also contains additional information about the subject. Look at this example:

  • Rick sneezed.

This sentence doesn't leave us asking any questions. It expresses a complete thought. We know who - Rick, and we know what - sneezed. Rick is the subject- he is the one the sentence is about. Sneezed is the verb and also happens to be the complete predicate - it not only provides the action in the sentence, but also gives us complete information about the subject.

However, many times it is not enough to just have the subject and verb of the sentence as frequently they do not form complete thoughts. Look at this example:

  • The car sitting in the garage.

Although it looks like a sentence, this is a fragment. We have a subject - car, and we have a verb - sitting, but, we don't have a complete thought. We are missing the complete predicate, the part of the sentence that tells us everything we need to know about the subject. We are left asking 'what about the car?'.

So, as you can see, it is most important that we ensure that we have enough information to deliver a full thought or expression.

How Can I Correct a Fragment?

Anytime the sentence contains a fragment, corrections must be made. There are three different ways to correct them.

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