A sentence fragment is a group of words that looks like a sentence, but actually isn’t a complete sentence. Sentence fragments are usually missing a subject or verb, or they do not express a complete thought. While it may be punctuated to look like a complete sentence, a fragment cannot stand on its own.

Distinguishing Features

Here are the distinguishing features of a sentence fragment:

  1. It is missing a subject
    • Example: Ran to the store faster than a rabbit. (Who ran?)
  2. It is missing a verb or has the wrong verb form
    • Example: My favorite history teacher.  (What did the teacher do or say?)
  3. It is a leftover phrase
    • Example: For better or worse.  (What is better or worse? What is it modifying?)
  4. It is an abandoned clause
    • Example: When my mother married my father.  (What happened when “my mother married my father?”)
  5. It is a misuse of “such as, for example, especially,” etc.
    • Example: Such as, my brother was practicing martial arts.  (It is unclear; did something happen when my brother was practicing martial arts?)

Three Ways to Fix a Fragment

  1. Attach
    Attach the fragment to a nearby complete sentence

    • Incorrect: I forgot to eat breakfast. On the morning of my driver’s test.
    • Correct: I forgot to eat breakfast on the morning of my driver’s test.

    • Incorrect: If the front door is locked. Use the back entrance.
    • Correct: If the front door is locked, use the back entrance.
  2. Revise
    Revise the fragment by adding whatever is missing – subject, verb, complete thought.

    • Incorrect: Loves to lie around in the sun all day. (A subject is missing. Who loves to lie around?)
    • Correct: My roommate’s pug loves to lie around in the sun all day.

    • Incorrect: Joe to train every day. (A verb is missing. Also, “to train” is the wrong verb form. Joe does what every day?)
    • Correct: Joe trains every day for the marathon next month.
    • Correct: Joe is training every day for the marathon next month.
  3. Rewrite
    Rewrite the fragment or the entire passage that contains the fragment.

    • Incorrect: Our new landlord was expected to make changes. Such as fixing the plumbing, installing a new washer, and replacing the security gate. Has not done any of it yet and weeks have passed. 
    • Correct: Our new landlord was expected to make changes, such as fixing the plumbing, installing a new washer, and replacing the security gate lock. Weeks have passed, and he still has not done any of it yet.