Reading & Writing Across Curriculum

Fragments

Fragments are incomplete sentences.  They lack a subject or a verb or both, or do not include all the phrases necessary to make a complete idea.  For example:

fragment missing element
The tall tree, the one that I loved to climb. no verb for the subject “tree"
Ran as fast as he could. no subject for the verb “ran”
Knowing that he was in big trouble. no subject, verb “knowing” has no tense
That he loved her. the word “that” means that this is a completing phrase for another sentence, so “he” and “loved” cannot be the subject and the verb

 

How to Correct Fragments in your Writing

There are two ways to fix a fragment:

  1. Change it into a complete sentence by adding and changing words.
  2. Connect it to another sentence that comes before or after it.

The following fragments have been fixed by changing them into complete sentences:

fragment complete sentence
The tall tree, the one that I loved to climb I loved to climb the tall tree.
Ran as fast as he could. Grant ran as fast as he could.
Knowing that he was in big trouble. Mel knew he was in big trouble.
That he loved her. He loved her.

 

These same fragments could also be connected to other sentences:

fragment complete sentence
I walked over to the tree. The tall tree, the one that I loved to climb. I walked over to the tree, the tall tree, the one that I loved to climb.
Grant ran across the field towards Mona. Ran as fast as he could. Grant ran across the field towards Mona, running as fast as he could.
Knowing that he was in big trouble. Mel flew to Mexico to hide out. Knowing that he was in big trouble, Mel flew to Mexico to hide out.
There was no doubt in Romeo's mind that he wanted to be with Juliet forever. That he loved her. There was no doubt in Romeo's mind that he wanted to be with Juliet forever, that he loved her.

 

In learning to recognize and correct fragments, it is helpful to know what the most common types of fragments are.

Common Types of Fragments

The most common fragments are

  1. fragments that begin with -ing verbs
  2. fragments that begin with linking words like “that” or "because"
  3. fragments that are lists or examples

Fragments Beginning with -Ing Verbs

-Ing verbs (also called present participles or gerunds) look like regular verbs, but they cannot function as the main verb of a sentence.

not a sentence: Susan singing.

 

-Ing verbs can appear as part of a verb phrase (a verb made up of several words).

subject verb
Susan is singing.
My friend Elaine was dancing.
My favorite racecar driver will be competing.

 

A phrase beginning with an ing-verb cannot stand alone as a sentence. The following are all sentence fragments beginning with -ing verbs.

Knowing that Phil would be furious when he arrived home.
Running as fast as he could to avoid being caught by the police.
Sensing that something was very wrong although she couldn't put her finger on it.

 

Correcting Fragments with -Ing Verbs

Like all fragments, fragments with -ing verbs can be corrected in two ways: changing the fragment to a complete sentence or connecting it to a sentence that comes before or after it.

The following fragments have been changed into complete sentences by changing the "ing" verbs to main verbs and adding a subject before the verb. Learn more about subjects and verbs.

fragment complete sentence
Knowing that Phil would be furious when he arrived home. Sarah knew that Phil would be furious when he arrived home.
Running as fast as he could to avoid being caught by the police. Mel ran as fast as he could to avoid being caught by the police.
Sensing that something was very wrong although she couldn't put her finger on it. Rebecca sensed that something was very wrong although she couldn't put her finger on it.

 

The following fragments have been attached to other sentences.

fragment complete sentence
Knowing that Phil would be furious when he arrived home. Sarah decided to go out for dinner with her friends. Knowing that Phil would be furious when he arrived home, Sarah decided to go out for dinner with her friends.
Running as fast as he could to avoid being caught by the police. Mel jumped over a parked car. Running as fast as he could to avoid being caught by the police, Mel jumped over a parked car.
Rebecca walked into the empty room slowly. Sensing that something was very wrong although she couldn't put her finger on it. Rebecca walked into the empty room slowly, sensing that something was very wrong although she couldn't put her finger on it.

 

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Fragments Beginning with Linking Words

Many fragments open with linking words like because, although, or that. These words are called "subordinating conjunctions"; they are connecting words that make the sentence not be able to stand alone. Find out more about conjunctions.

The following are all fragments beginning with linking words. Each one has a subject and a verb, but they are all fragments because they do not contain a complete idea. The linking word means that they must be attached to another sentence.

Because Rene is taller than most ten-year-old girls.
That our society needs to protect its most vulnerable members.
Although there are some strong arguments in favor of higher taxes.

 

Correcting Fragments Beginning with Linking Words

Like all fragments, fragments beginning with linking words can be corrected in two ways: changing the fragment to a complete sentence or connecting it to a sentence that comes before or after it.

The following fragments have been changed into complete sentences by eliminating the linking word.

fragment complete sentence
Because Rene is taller than most ten-year-old girls. Rene is taller than most ten-year-old girls.
That our society needs to protect its most vulnerable members. Our society needs to protect its most vulnerable members.
Although there are some strong arguments in favor of higher taxes. There are some strong arguments in favor of higher taxes.

 

The following fragments have been attached to complete sentences appearing before or after them.

fragment complete sentence
Rene is a strong member of the basketball team. Because Rene is taller than most ten-year-old girls. Rene is a strong member of the basketball team because Rene is taller than most ten-year-old girls.
I strongly believe that welfare programs are important. That our society needs to protect its most vulnerable members. I strongly believe that welfare programs are important and that our society needs to protect its most vulnerable members.
Although there are some strong arguments in favor of higher taxes. Most Americans tend to vote against raising taxes. Although there are some strong arguments in favor of higher taxes, most Americans tend to vote against raising taxes.

 

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Fragments that are Lists or Examples

People often write fragments that are lists and examples. These fragments tend to start with words indicating an example: such as, for example, including. Each of the following passages contains a fragment that is a list or example.

Randy needed to buy some school supplies. Such as pencils, pens, and notebooks.
Many groups have had to fight for their civil rights. For example, African Americans, Native Americans, and women.
There are many valuable charity organizations to volunteer for. Including the Humane Society and the Boys' Club.

 

Correcting Fragments that are Lists or Examples

Like all fragments, fragments that are lists or examples can be corrected in two ways: changing the fragment to a complete sentence or connecting it to a sentence that comes before or after it.

The following fragments have been changed into complete sentences by turning adding a subject and a verb. Learn more about subjects and verbs.

fragment complete sentence
Randy needed to buy some school supplies. Such as pencils, pens, and notebooks. Randy needed to buy some school supplies. The most important supplies to buy were pencils, pens, and notebooks.
Many groups have had to fight for their civil rights. For example, African Americans, Native Americans, and women. Many groups have had to fight for their civil rights. Some examples include African Americans, Native Americans, and women.
There are many valuable charity organizations to volunteer for. Including the Humane Society and the Boys' Club. There are many valuable charity organizations to volunteer for. Two excellent charities are the Humane Society and the Boys' Club.

 

 

These fragments can also be corrected by connecting them to the sentence that comes before them.

fragment complete sentence
Randy needed to buy some school supplies. Such as pencils, pens, and notebooks. Randy needed to buy some school supplies, such as pencils, pens, and notebooks.
Many groups have had to fight for their civil rights. For example, African Americans, Native Americans, and women. Many groups have had to fight for their civil rights, for example, African Americans, Native Americans, and women.
There are many valuable charity organizations to volunteer for. Including the Humane Society and the Boys' Club. There are many valuable charity organizations to volunteer for, including the Humane Society and the Boys' Club.

 

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925.424.1268

 

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Page last modified: May 13, 2016