Sentence Fragments

Learn how to avoid grammar errors with sentence fragments.

Table of contents

What are the grammar rules?

NOTE: Sentence fragments are only an error in writing.

1.  A sentence fragment is a group of words that looks like a sentence because it starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop / period.

Here’s an example.

For example, participants who were in the control group.

2.  However, to be a sentence, there needs to be at least one independent clause.

Incorrect Correct
For example, participants who were in the control group. – For example, participants who were in the control group were not required to complete the second questionnaire.

3.  The most common type of sentence fragment is a dependent clause fragment. This is a group of words that doesn’t express a complete thought because it contains a subordinating conjunction: when, after, although, if, because, until, whereas, etc. The reader is left waiting for the rest of the thought.

Here are some examples.

Before the participants arrived.
Although conscientiousness appears to be related to intention to quit.

To fix a dependent clause fragment, you generally have to combine it with the independent clause immediately before or after it.

Incorrect Correct
Before the participants arrived. The researcher allocated them to groups. – Before the participants arrived, the researcher allocated them to groups.

OR

– The researcher allocated the participants to groups before they arrived.
Although conscientiousness appears to be related to intention to quit. More research is needed. – Although conscientiousness appears to be related to intention to quit, more research is needed.

4.  Another common type of sentence fragment is the afterthought fragment, which occurs when the writer adds extra information connected to the previous clause.

Here are some examples.

Unemployment can cause a range of problems. Especially financial hardship.
The participants were from a range of countries. Including China, Spain and Romania.

Afterthought fragments can usually be fixed by joining the fragment to the independent clause before it, usually with a comma.

Incorrect Correct
Unemployment can cause a range of problems. Especially financial hardship. – Unemployment can cause a range of problems, especially financial hardship.
The participants were from a range of countries. Including China, Spain and Romania. – The participants were from a range of countries, including China, Spain and Romania.

5.  A final common type of sentence fragment is the appositive fragment. This occurs when extra information given about a noun makes it appear that a complete sentence has been written. It can be confusing because there’s a verb in the sentence, but it isn’t the main verb; it’s part of a relative clause.

Here are some examples.

The participants who arrived at the researcher’s lab early.
The social issues identified, which included unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination.

Appositive fragments can be fixed by adding a main verb.

Incorrect Correct
The participants who arrived at the researcher’s lab early. – The participants who arrived at the researcher’s lab early were able to finish on time.
The social issues identified, which included unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination. – The social issues identified, which included unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination, need to be addressed.

Quiz

Try the questions below to test what you’ve learnt about sentence fragments.

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Look for sentence fragments in these excerpts. Are the excerpts grammatically correct or incorrect?

1.  Perhaps the most important way to judge a nation’s economic health is to look at its production of goods and services. The more the nation produces, the higher its standard of living. An increase in a nation’s output of goods and services is economic growth. 

2.  The most basic measure of economic growth is the gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is the total market value of all final goods and services produced within a nation’s borders each year. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes quarterly GDP figures that can be used to compare trends in national output. When GDP rises. The economy is growing. 

3.  The rate of growth in real GDP (GDP adjusted for inflation) is also important. Recently, the US economy has been growing at a slow but steady rate of between 3 and 4 per cent annually. This growth rate has meant a steady increase in the output of goods and services and relatively low unemployment. Especially in comparison to the high rates of unemployment in the early 1980s. When the growth rate slides towards zero, the economy begins to stagnate and decline. 

4.  One country that continues to grow more rapidly than most is China, whose GDP has been growing at 6 to 7 per cent per year. Today few things in the global marketplace are not or cannot be made in China. The primary contributor to China’s rapid growth has been technology. Most tablets and laptops are manufactured in China. For example, Lenovo’s devices and those of many US-based companies that have outsourced their manufacturing to China. 

__________

“Introduction to Business” by OpenStax is licensed under CC BY 4.0. A small excerpt was extracted from Chapter 1 and edited. This textbook can be downloaded free from https://openstax.org/details/books/introduction-business.

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Feedback

Click below for the answers.

This excerpt doesn’t contain any sentence fragments.

This excerpt contains a dependent clause fragment, which is highlighted below:

“The most basic measure of economic growth is the gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is the total market value of all final goods and services produced within a nation’s borders each year. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes quarterly GDP figures that can be used to compare trends in national output. When GDP rises. The economy is growing.

You can fix this error by joining the last two sentences together:

“When GDP rises, the economy is growing.”

This excerpt contains an afterthought fragment, which is highlighted below:

“The rate of growth in real GDP (GDP adjusted for inflation) is also important. Recently, the US economy has been growing at a slow but steady rate of between 3 and 4 per cent annually. This growth rate has meant a steady increase in the output of goods and services and relatively low unemployment. Especially in comparison to the high rates of unemployment in the early 1980s. When the growth rate slides towards zero, the economy begins to stagnate and decline.”

You can fix this error by joining the fragment to the sentence before it with a comma:

“This growth rate has meant a steady increase in the output of goods and services and relatively low unemployment, especially in comparison to the high rates of unemployment in the 1970s.”

This excerpt contains an appositive fragment, which is highlighted below:

“One country that continues to grow more rapidly than most is China, whose GDP has been growing at 6 to 7 per cent per year. Today few things in the global marketplace are not or cannot be made in China. The primary contributor to China’s rapid growth has been technology. Most tablets and laptops are manufactured in China. For example, Lenovo’s devices and those of many US-based companies that have outsourced their manufacturing to China.

You can fix this error by adding a main verb to the fragment:

This includes Lenovo’s devices and those of many US-based companies that have outsourced their manufacturing to China.”