What is a Sentence Fragment? - Definition & Examples

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Mary Firestone

Mary Firestone has a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Firestone has experience as an instructor for English, English Composition, Advanced Composition, Contemporary World Literature, Contemporary Literature, and Creative Writing. She has taught at a variety of schools such as Ottawa University Online, Rasmussen College, Excelsior College, and Southern New Hampshire University.

Expert Contributor
Linsey Betts

Linsey is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in English Literature at Claremont Graduate University and has taught students of all ages in English and the humanities for 10 years.

A sentence fragment is a group of words that cannot stand alone as a sentence because it does not express a complete thought. Learn about subordinators, fragment phrases, and fragment temptations to understand how to identify and correct sentence fragments. Updated: 08/18/2021

Definition of a Sentence Fragment

Sentence fragments are groups of words that look like sentences, but aren't. To be a sentence, groups of words need to have at least one independent clause. An independent clause is any group of words that contain both a subject and a verb and can stand on its own. For example, 'I like cheeseburgers' is an independent clause.

Sentence fragments never have independent clauses, but instead are dependent clauses or phrases. Fragments can masquerade as real sentences because they begin with a capital letter and end with a period. If you read them more closely, you'll see that fragments don't form a complete thought. A sentence fragment is a little like having only half of the pieces to a puzzle. Without all the pieces, you won't have the whole picture.

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  • 0:05 Sentence Fragments and…
  • 1:18 Subordinators
  • 1:46 Fragment Phrases
  • 2:55 Fragment Temptations
  • 3:36 Are Sentence Fragments…
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Missing Piece

Where to Find Sentence Fragments

Sentence fragments usually appear before or after the independent clauses to which they belong. For example:

When we got in the car. We rolled down the windows.

'When we got in the car' is a sentence fragment and a dependent clause. It clearly belongs to the independent clause that follows it and should be rewritten like this:

When we got in the car, we rolled down the windows.

Or like this:

We rolled down the windows when we got in the car.


The sentence fragment 'When we got in the car' also has the subordinator 'when'. Some other examples of subordinators are: 'after', 'although', 'before', 'if', 'since', 'until', 'when', 'where', 'while', and 'why'. Clauses with subordinators can be called either dependent clauses or subordinating clauses, but when those clauses appear at the beginning of a sentence, they should be followed by a comma.

Fragment Phrases

Phrases are groups of words that are missing a subject or verb, or both. Phrases can also masquerade as sentences, like dependent clauses can. Here are some examples.

Here's an example missing subject and verb:

From morning until night.

This fragment can be made a complete sentence by changing it to:

I worked from morning until night.

Adding 'I' as the subject and 'worked' as the verb corrects this fragment and makes it an independent clause and a complete thought.

Here's an example of a missing subject:

Start after the weekend.

This fragment can be made a complete sentence by changing it to:

Classes start after the weekend.

Adding the subject 'classes' corrects this fragment and makes it an independent clause and a complete thought.

Finally, here's an example of a missing verb:

Some girls in the class.

This fragment can be changed to:

Some girls in the class study together.

Adding the verb 'study' corrects this fragment and makes it an independent clause and a complete thought.

Fragment Temptations

Certain words and expressions make it easy to fall into the sentence fragment habit. Some of these words include 'also', 'for example', 'and', 'but', 'for instance', 'mainly', 'or', and 'that'. Here's how they appear in a sentence:

Harris claims that men and women have different ideas about dating. For example, that men should pay for dinner on a date.

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Additional Activities

Sentence Fragments: Practice and Review

In this lesson, we learned about sentence fragments. Also known as phrases or dependent clauses, sentence fragments are missing a subject and a verb. Sentence fragments can be converted into complete sentences by adding these missing parts. Practice what you have learned using the following exercises!

Is it a fragment?:

State whether the following examples are fragments or complete sentences.

1. The windows are dirty.

2. Every single one.

3. The zebra herd.

4. I was a witch for Halloween.

5. Going to the mall.

De-fragmentize the sentence:

Using some of the subordinators you learned about in this lesson (like 'after', 'although', 'before', 'if', 'since', 'until', 'when', 'where', 'while', or 'why'), convert the following fragments into complete sentences. There can be multiple answers for each example!

6. Went to the store. Ate pizza for dinner.

7. Drenched my clothes. Since I forgot my umbrella.

8. Some people actually like. Pineapple on pizza. Although I think it's gross.


1. complete sentence

6. After we went to the store, we ate pizza for dinner.

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