Sentence Fragments



To understand what are sentence fragments, you first must understand what is a sentence.

Think of a sentence as the three-legged stool.  It stands very strongly and with stability.   

It stands by itself.  Full stop.


However, what if one of the legs were removed? 

What would happen to the stool? 

Surely it would topple.



  • The complete sentence is like the stable stool. 
  • The sentence fragment is like the stool with one leg removed. 
  • It cannot stand by itself. 
  • Something is missing.


You must be able to recognize a sentence that can stand by itself and differentiate it from a group of words that is almost complete, but just cannot quite stand by itself – the sentence fragment.

  • A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a verb.  
  • A complete or independent clause is one that can stand by itself.
  • An incomplete or subordinate or dependent clause is one that cannot stand by itself.
  • An incomplete or subordinate or dependent clause depends on, or leans on, another independent clause for support.


Many of the errors result from long sentences. 

The long sentences would do much better if they were broken down into shorter sentences.  

It seems that some of the dependent clauses get separated from the independent clauses – and then they become sentence fragments.

Here is a basic example.  

I have decided to travel to the city this weekend.  Because I need a break.

The first part above is definitely a sentence:  I have decided to travel to the city this weekend.

The second part, however, is only a fragment.  There is a subject and a verb, but there’s also a leading conjunction – “because.”  

The conjunction “because” needs to lean on the previous part of the sentence. 

  • The word “conjunction” means joining with. 
  • The dependent clause begins with a word that “joins with” the more stable clause – the independent clause or the complete sentence. 

Remove the conjunction "because," and leave “I need a break.” 

That is a complete sentence. 

I need a break. (complete sentence)

But with the conjunction – that needs to lean on another clause – you have only a sentence fragment.

Because I need a break.  (incomplete sentence - sentence fragment)

The way to correct the error is to join the two together. 

  • Let the conjunction lean on the first part.
  • Remove the period from between the two parts.


I have decided to travel to the city this weekend because I need a break.

And that solves the problem.



Sentence fragments - avoiding them

Here are some others that are a bit more challenging:

Communication can have different forms.  Either verbal form via video conferencing or phone call, or written form via email or letters. (incorrect)

Communication can have different forms, either verbal form via video conferencing or phone call, or written form via email or letters.  (correct)

Communication can have different forms.  There is verbal communication via video conferencing or phone call.  There is also written form via email or letters.  (best)

  • The final option above has short sentence which are much clearer and much easier to understand. 
  • Your goal should be to write in short sentences and short paragraphs.



A second example:

Given different cultural contexts, this situation brings new communication challenges to the workplace. Even when employees, located in different locations or offices,  speak the same language. (incorrect)

The last clause is dependent upon the first clause – and should be joined to the first one for support.

Given different cultural contexts, this situation brings new communication challenges to the workplace, even when employees, located in different countries and offices, speak the same language.  (better)

However, in the above, the correct first punctuation would be a semi-colon rather than a comma.

Given different cultural contexts, this situation brings new communication challenges to the workplace; even when employees, located in different countries and offices, speak the same language.  (better yet)

Different cultural contexts bring new communication challenges to the workplace.  These challenges exist even when employees who are located in different countries and offices speak the same language.  (best)


Another example:

For example.  Many Spanish have longer lunch breaks than Americans. Which means there may be a two- to three-hour time period during the day you would like to meet which is unavailable. (incorrect)

The first part and third part are sentence fragments. 

  • Only “Many Spanish…” is a complete sentence and independent clause. 
  • Join the fragments to the independent clause. 
  • Also, write in shorter sentences.


For example, many Spanish have longer lunch breaks than Americans.  This longer lunch break may mean that there is a two- to three-hour time period when direct communication is not possible. (correct)


Poor English – how would you revise this?

In some countries as United States, and  Germany speak in a loud voice, and share ideas aggressively, this is very acceptable, however it is on the contrary in Japan, people speak in a soft voice and share their ideas’ passively.

In the above, there are a number of errors.  Unfortunately, to be able to write clearly and effectively, one of the basic requirements is a sound knowledge of the English language.

The above can be revised as follows.  This revision is only one of many acceptable solutions:

In some countries, such as the United States and Germany, speaking loudly and sharing ideas aggressively may be quite acceptable.  However, in Japan, the norm is quite the contrary.  People speak softly and share their ideas passively.


LINK - Return from Sentence Fragments to Sentence Structure