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CHAPTER 17

Sentence Fragments

A mirror breaks, and someone screams


In horror and in fright.
Must be your English teacher,
Who thinks fragments are a blight.

T he woman in the photograph above seems horrified by the fragments of


broken mirror that reflect her image. Perhaps she is superstitious and
believes that a broken mirror will bring seven years bad luck. Of course,
she could also be an English professor, suddenly reminded of the horror of
sentence fragments.

354
CHAPTER 17 Sentence Fragments 355

What Is a Sentence Fragment?


A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence. It may be a dependent
clause that cannot stand on its own, or it may lack a subject, a verb, or both.
If you read a fragment by itself, without the other sentences that surround
it, you will usually recognize that it does not express a complete thought. It
is only a part, or fragment, of a sentence.

Examples
Many animals hibernate in winter. Including woodchucks, ground squir-
rels, and frogs.
On Saturday morning, Alvin spent an hour raking leaves. And sweeping
them from his carport.

The italicized word groups are sentence fragmentspieces of sen-


tences that cannot stand alone.

Dependent Clause Fragments


Jarrod said he did not finish his term paper. Because his computer had
crashed.
When Alice arrived at 10:15. The exam had already started.

Each of the italicized fragments above is a dependent clause fragment.


A dependent clause fragment always begins with a dependent word. To fix
a dependent clause fragment, attach it to a complete sentence. Removing
the dependent word will also fix the fragment, but the dependent word
may be necessary to strengthen the logical connection between two ideas.

Jarrod did not finish his term paper because his computer had crashed.
Jarrod did not finish his term paper. His computer had crashed.
When Alice arrived at 10:15, the exam had already started.
Alice arrived at 10:15. The exam had already started.

*Punctuation Pointer
Use a comma to attach a dependent clause fragment at the begin-
ning of a sentence.
356 PART 2 Grammar

Commonly Used Dependent Words


after how what
although if when
as once whenever
as if since where
as long as so that wherever
as soon as that which
because though while
before unless who
even though until whoever

PRACTICE 1 CORRECTING DEPENDENT CLAUSE FRAGMENTS

Correct the dependent clause fragments in the following exercise by attaching


them to an independent clause. Write the corrected portion of each sentence on the
line provided.

1. Tamika complained that her car did not run well. Unless she used premium
gasoline.
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2. Ray wondered what was wrong with the compact disc changer. That he had
bought just two weeks ago.
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3. Since Andrea is cold-natured and her roommate is not. They are always
battling over the thermostat.
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4. If Jeff did not set his clock fifteen minutes fast. He might never be on time.
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5. The suspect admitted that she had shot her husband. Because the poison she
was giving him had not worked quickly enough.
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Verbal Phrase Fragments (to, -ing, and -ed)


To relax and to develop her creative abilities. Ann decided to take an art class.
Anitas dog was a familiar sight in the neighborhood. Running through
yards and tearing up flowerbeds.
CHAPTER 17 Sentence Fragments 357

Bored by his job in a warehouse. Evan bought a lawn mower and cut grass
to earn money.

The examples above are verbal phrase fragments. A verbal phrase frag-
ment begins with a verb form that is not used as a main verb. Verbal phrase
fragments include to fragments, -ing fragments, and -ed/-en fragments.
Correct verbal phrase fragments by attaching them to a complete sentence.

Anitas dog was a familiar sight in the neighborhood, running through


yards and tearing up flowerbeds.
To relax and to develop her creative abilities, Ann decided to take an art
class.
Bored by his job in a warehouse, Evan bought a lawn mower and cut
grass to earn money.

to Fragments
Correct to fragments by connecting them to a sentence or by adding a sub-
ject and verb, as shown in the examples below.

Examples
The auto repair shop has begun to open on weekends. To accommodate
customers who work during the week.
The auto repair shop has begun to open on weekends to accommodate
customers who work during the week.
To ensure that we would not forget to tip him. The server asked, Do
you want change back?
To ensure that we would not forget to tip him, the server asked, Do
you want change back?
James programmed his VCR before he left the house. To make sure he
would not miss even one inning of the ball game.
James programmed his VCR before he left the house. He wanted to
make sure he would not miss even one inning of the ball game.

*Punctuation Pointer
A to fragment attached to the beginning of a sentence is followed
by a comma because it is an introductory phrase. A to fragment
connected to the end of the sentence needs no comma.
358 PART 2 Grammar

PRACTICE 2 CORRECTING TO FRAGMENTS

Underline and correct the to fragments in the following exercise. Write the cor-
rected portion of each sentence on the line provided.

1. To give his students plenty of writing practice. The teacher assigned journals.
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2. To give herself a break from the computer. Nora took her dog for a walk.
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3. Samuel was surprised. To see the package outside his door.
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4. To mark his place in his book. Henry used a dollar bill.
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5. Radio stations often hold contests. To keep listeners tuned in.
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-ing Fragments
To correct an -ing fragment, connect it to the rest of the sentence with a
comma. You may also correct it by adding a subject and a helping verb.

Peering out the window and checking her watch every five minutes.
Charlene waited for her guests to arrive.
Peering out the window and checking her watch every five minutes,
Charlene waited for her guests to arrive.
Rachel spent the afternoon at home. Listening to her new CD and reading
magazines.
Rachel spent the afternoon at home, listening to her new CD and reading
magazines.

Sometimes, the -ing word may be the second or third word in the fragment.

James hopped into his car and left the restaurants parking lot. Not
realizing that he had left his bucket of chicken on top of the car.
James hopped into his car and left the restaurants parking lot, not
realizing that he had left his bucket of chicken on top of the car.
CHAPTER 17 Sentence Fragments 359

*Punctuation Pointer
Usually,-ing fragments can be connected to the rest of the sen-
tence with a comma. When the -ing fragment acts as an introduc-
tory element, place a comma after it. When you add it to the end
of a sentence, lead into it with a comma.

PRACTICE 3 CORRECTING -ING FRAGMENTS

Underline and correct the -ing fragments in the following exercise. Write the cor-
rected portion of each sentence on the line provided.

1. Puffing as if she had run a marathon. Bonita completed her first lap on the cir-
cular track.
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2. The vines grew thick on the abandoned house. Obscuring the windows and
part of the front door.
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3. Riding in the back of the pickup truck. The dog wobbled unsteadily as his
owner rounded a curve.
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4. Sneaking cigarettes, playing her music too loud, and visiting a male resident
after curfew. Aunt Matilda has broken most of the nursing homes rules.
_____________________________________________________________________
5. Leslie complains that her neighbors children are allowed to run wild. Playing
loudly in the street until past midnight.
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-ed and -en Fragments


Another kind of fragment begins with an -ed or -en verb form, or past par-
ticiple. If the verb is a regular verb, the verb form will end in -ed, like the
verbs walked, called, and plotted. If the verb is irregular, then the verb form
will end in -en or in another irregular ending. Broken, grown, found, bought,
and written are some of these forms. (For other examples, see the list of
360 PART 2 Grammar

irregular verbs in Chapter 13.) This type of fragment is usually corrected


by connecting it to a complete sentence.

Spaced evenly and set in rows. The desks seemed ready for the fall
term.
Spaced evenly and set in rows, the desks seemed ready for the fall
term.
Everyone looked at the white rabbit. Held by the top-hatted magi-
cian.
Everyone looked at the white rabbit held by the top-hatted magi-
cian.
Caught with his car full of stolen property. The thief could only con-
fess.
Caught with his car full of stolen property, the thief could only
confess.

PRACTICE 4 CORRECTING -ED AND -EN FRAGMENTS

Underline and correct the -ed and -en fragments in the following exercise. Write the
corrected portion of each sentence on the line provided.

1. Next week, students are invited to a career fair and resum workshop.
Presented by the colleges career counseling office.
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2. Cleaned and pressed at the local cleaners. Eldons old sport coat looked
like new.
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3. Drawn by the smell of food. The dog decided to join our picnic.
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4. Kevin has kept his old model trains. Stored on a shelf in a closet in his parents
house.
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5. Encouraged by her parents. Dawn decided to apply for the scholarship.
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CHAPTER 17 Sentence Fragments 361

Missing-Subject Fragments
Fragments beginning with a joining word such as and, or, but, or then fol-
lowed by a verb are missing-subject fragments. The subject of the verb is
usually in a previous sentence. Connect the fragment to the sentence or
add a subject to begin a new sentence.

Woodrow held up his prize fish and posed for the camera. Then fell off
the end of the fishing pier.
Woodrow held up his prize fish and posed for the camera, then fell off
the end of the fishing pier.
The hurricane changed course and seemed to falter. But gathered
strength again before it hit the coast.
The hurricane changed course and seemed to falter but gathered
strength again before it hit the coast.
The hurricane changed course and seemed to falter. But it gathered
strength again before it hit the coast.

PRACTICE 5 CORRECTING MISSING-SUBJECT FRAGMENTS

Underline and correct the missing-subject fragments in the following exercise.


Write the corrected portion of each sentence on the line provided.

1. The cat ate the hamburger. But refused the bun.


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2. The baseball player emerged from the dugout. And waved his cap to acknowl-
edge the cheering fans.
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3. At the side of the road, the collie looked both ways. Then crossed the street.
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4. On her days off, Ebony reads a book. Or surfs the Internet on her com-
puter.
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5. Every morning, a wily squirrel bounds into Maurices backyard and heads for
the bird feeder. Then eats the food Maurice has put out for the birds.
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362 PART 2 Grammar

*Real-World Writing: Is It Okay to Start a Sentence


with But?
Yes and no. Grammatically, it is correct to start a sentence with but
or any other FANBOYS conjunction. However, your instructors
may discourage the practice for two good reasons.
1. Beginning a sentence with but is an informal technique. It may
work in personal essays but should not be used in formal com-
positions such as research papers. (This text, you may have
noticed, takes an informal, conversational approach, address-
ing you directly and occasionally using a FANBOYS conjunc-
tion to begin a sentence.)
2. Using but to begin a sentence can be addictive. But is the
strongest contrast signal in our language, and its easy to over-
use.
The bottom line: Use conjunctions to begin sentences only
if your instructor gives the green light, and then use them
sparingly.

Example and Exception Fragments


Fragments often occur when a writer decides to add an example or note an
exception. Example fragments often begin with such as, including, like, for
example, or for instance. Exception fragments often begin with not, except,
unless, without, or in spite of. To fix the fragment, connect it to the sentence
with which it logically belongs. If the fragment begins with for example or
for instance, it is often best to make the fragment into a separate sentence.

Hollis becomes nervous in high-pressure situations. Such as exams and


interviews.
Hollis becomes nervous in high-pressure situations, such as exams and
interviews.
Lindsay is trying to put herself through college. Without any help from
her parents.
Lindsay is trying to put herself through college without any help from
her parents.
Classes with labs require more time than other classes. For example,
biology and French.
CHAPTER 17 Sentence Fragments 363

*Punctuation Pointer
Usually, you can connect fragments beginning with such as, includ-
ing, not, especially, and in spite of with a comma, and fragments be-
ginning with except, unless, without, and like with no punctuation.
A fragment beginning with for example or for instance may be at-
tached with a comma if it immediately follows the idea it
illustrates: The chef enjoyed cooking with beans, for example,
lima beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans. If the idea that the
example illustrates is expressed earlier in the sentence, place the
example in a new sentence: Beans are the specialty of the house at
Rizzolis Restaurant. For example, the chef makes delicious
dishes from lima beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans.

Classes with labs require more time than other classes. For example,
biology and French take more of my study time than history or math.

PRACTICE 6 CORRECTING EXAMPLE AND EXCEPTION FRAGMENTS

Underline and correct the example and exception fragments in the following exer-
cise. Write the correction on the line provided.

1. Natalie sets aside specific times to study and lets nothing interfere with her
plans. Unless something more interesting comes along.

_____________________________________________________________________
2. Leonard complained that nothing grew in his garden. Except weeds.

_____________________________________________________________________
3. Thirty years ago, office workers had to get along without modern equipment.
Such as computers, copiers, and fax machines.

_____________________________________________________________________
4. On New Years Eve, Alexandra vowed to give up all sweets. Especially
chocolate.

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5. If everyone would cooperate, it would be easy to solve some of the commu-
nitys problems. For example, litter on public streets.

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364 PART 2 Grammar

Prepositional Phrase Fragments


A prepositional phrase, alone or within a series, cannot function as a
sentence. Correct a prepositional phrase fragment by connecting it to a
sentence with which it logically belongs.

Hamilton finally found his lost history book. In a large mud puddle on
the street beside the student union.
Hamilton finally found his lost history book in a large mud puddle on
the street beside the student union.
On her way to a three oclock job interview at Stanfield Corporation.
Melanie became lost.
On her way to a three oclock job interview at Stanfield Corporation,
Melanie became lost.

*Punctuation Pointer
Use a comma behind introductory prepositional phrases. No
punctuation is required to connect a prepositional phrase to the
end of a sentence.

PRACTICE 7 CORRECTING PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE FRAGMENTS

Underline and correct each of the following prepositional phrase fragments. Write
your correction on the line provided.

1. After searching frantically for half an hour, Amanda finally found her lost
keys. Under a bunch of bananas on the kitchen counter.
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2. In a hanging philodendron on the front porch. The bird had built her nest.
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3. On a sandy beach with a frosty strawberry slush in her hand. Morgan found
contentment.
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4. Because she had stayed up all night to study, Deb fell asleep. During the exam.
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5. In a pond beyond the city limits. James and his father fish on the weekends.
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CHAPTER 17 Sentence Fragments 365

Review Exercises
Complete the Review Exercises to see how well you have learned the skills ad-
dressed in this chapter. As you work through the exercises, go back through
the chapter to review any of the rules you do not understand completely.

REVIEW EXERCISE 1

Underline and correct each fragment in the following exercise. Write your correc-
tion on the line provided.

1. In their cabin beside the lake. The Millers displayed photos of fish they had
caught and released.
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2. Because of numerous complaints. The city council passed a law prohibiting
obscene bumper stickers.
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3. Tom enjoys all aspects of cooking. Except chopping onions and garlic.
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4. Uncle Walter raised his parrot lovingly. Giving it affection and teaching it to
curse in seven languages.
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5. It took three people to carry the prize-winning pumpkin. Which weighed
almost 100 pounds.
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6. The preschool teacher says jokingly that Sharma is a born rebel. Because she
always colors outside the lines.
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7. Found beside a dumpster. The coffee table looks good with a coat of paint.
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8. Harriet went over to the candy dish. And picked out all the licorice drops.
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9. The child tried to stay awake all night. To see if the tooth fairy was real.
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10. We left the house forty-five minutes early. To take the car to the dealership.
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366 PART 2 Grammar

REVIEW EXERCISE 2

Underline and correct each fragment in the following exercise. Write your correc-
tion on the line provided.

1. Except for the shower, which produced just a small dribble of water. The
hotel room was comfortable and inviting.
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2. Although Mu Lan is happy to be attending college in the United States. She
misses her family in Beijing.
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3. When they went on vacation, the Colesons packed everything they thought
they would need. But did not consider the possibility of snow.
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4. The young man wore a green shirt. That said, My parents were kidnapped
by aliens and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.
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5. Worn through at the toe and battered from use. Jennifers sneakers need to be
replaced.
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6. With the top down and the music turned up loud. Anita sailed down the
moonlit highway.
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7. Cheering loudly and clapping rhythmically. The audience demanded an
encore.
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8. Interrupted by dozens of long commercials. The TV show ground slowly
toward its conclusion.

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9. Ayesha went to the library to return a book. That was three weeks overdue.

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10. At the garage sale, Mark looked at the worn wooden desk. And wondered if
it would fit into the back of his vehicle.

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CHAPTER 17 Sentence Fragments 367

REVIEW EXERCISE 3

Underline and correct the two fragments in each numbered item that follows.
Write your corrections on the lines provided.

1. Because grass grows quickly in the South and weeds abound. Many residents
plant thick, slow-growing grasses. Such as centipede.
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2. After he had gone through registration. Edward stood in line at the bookstore.
He glanced through his textbooks. And remarked to the student behind him
that it was going to be a long semester.
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3. Though it is common to hear of people hiring gardeners or housekeepers. It is
possible to hire someone to do almost any kind of chore. Including shopping
or standing in line.
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4. The teacher said that she could always tell. Which students in her class were
computer literate. They were the ones who knew how to turn on the comput-
ers. And find the solitaire game.
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______________________________________________________________________
5. Before the annual Easter egg hunt, volunteers hid Easter eggs. In bushes,
behind benches, and in clumps of grass. They worked for hours hiding eggs.
That the children would find in minutes.
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REVIEW EXERCISE 4

Underline and correct the two fragments in each of the following. Write your cor-
rections on the lines provided.

1. High-fashion models wear extreme styles. That most women would not wear.
For example, skimpy dresses and sheer tops.
368 PART 2 Grammar

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______________________________________________________________________
2. One town in Spain holds a tomato festival. In its town square every year.
Residents gather in the square. And throw tomatoes at one another until the
pavement is inches deep in goo.
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______________________________________________________________________
3. As the hunter traipsed through the snowy woods. His boots crunched loudly
in the snow. The noise carried through the forest. Warning every animal
within half a mile.
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4. Though the old rotary phone is battered and cracked. It still works as well as
it did twenty years ago. However, it does not have programmable speed dial.
Or even touch-tone capability.
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______________________________________________________________________
5. Inside the top drawer of the desk, Nick found a stapler, two rolls of pennies, a
lime-green note pad, a yellow highlighter, and five catnip mice. That belonged
to his five cats. The drawer seemed to hold everything. Except the computer
diskette he was looking for.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

REVIEW EXERCISE 5

Underline and correct the ten fragments in this exercise. Write your corrections on
the lines provided.

1
The kitchen workers at Arturos Pizza have invented several
games. 2To relieve boredom when business is slow and Arturo, the
owner, is not around. 3One of their favorite games is dough ball.
4
Which is a game of catch played with a baseball-sized ball of pizza
dough. 5When they tire of dough ball. 6They play doughboy. 7This
game involves mixing a batch of extremely wet, sticky dough. 8Then
throwing it at each other. 9At the end of the game, the person with
CHAPTER 17 Sentence Fragments 369

the most dough stuck to him loses. 10And has to clean up the mess.
11
The kitchen workers have recently invented another game. 12That
they call beef darts. 13The object of the game is to earn points. 14By
throwing small balls of raw hamburger at a pizza-sauce target
painted on the wall. 15As their games become more elaborate and
messy. 16The likelihood that they will be caught increases. 17But they
have been lucky. 18So far. 19Whenever Arturo returns to the restaurant.
20
The kitchen is spotless and the employees are hard at work.

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