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|Essay Writing||Writing Elements and Process|
in sentence fragments. When Mary asks Bill the bus driver what he
wants for lunch and he says, "Reuben sandwich"...
...his response is a sentence fragment.
When Mrs. Crabtree the retiree shakes her glass at Mary from across the room and yells,
...the old bat is speaking in sentence fragments.
Really, with all the sentence fragments Mary hears every day, it's a miracle she hasn't
gone at anyone with a steak knife. Grammatically correct sentences, as a rule,
have at least one subject and one verb.
For example, in the two-word sentence, "Mary cleaned"...
...we have the subject of the sentence, Mary...
...performing the action verb "cleaned".
Sentence fragments, however, tend to lack verbs, which is why they aren't real sentences.
Now, sometimes we encounter one-word sentences that look like sentence fragments, but are
actually full-on, pure-blooded sentences.
For example, there's the imperative sentence form, which consists of a one-word command.
When a customer spills his drink on the floor and Mary's boss says, "Mop!"...
...the word "mop" is the command...
...and Mary is the implied subject.
When a customer tries to sneak out of the restaurant without paying her bill, and Mary
...the word "pay" is the command...
...and the thieving customer is the implied subject.
It's also possible to make one-word sentences out of exclamations.
When Mary drops a plate on the floor and screams "CENSORED!"...
...the exclamation "CENSORED!" is a sentence.
When Mary gets lemon juice in a paper cut on her finger and yells "Ouch!"...
...the exclamation "Ouch!" is a sentence. But...still not as much fun to yell as "CENSORED!"
Now, here comes the tricky part. It just so happens that, sometimes, we can have both
a subject and a verb...
...but no sentence. This type of sentence fragment occurs when the subject and the verb
are part of a dependent clause.
Dependent clauses have two characteristics: they start with a subordinating conjunction
like "because", "although", or "if"...
...and they depend on the existence of a main clause.
Say we have the sentence, "Although Mr. Johnson had a forty-dollar ticket, he only
tipped Mary two bucks."
If the dependent clause "Although Mr. Johnson had a forty-dollar ticket" stood on its
own, it wouldn't make any sense. It's a sentence fragment, and we need the rest
of the sentence...
...the main clause, "He only tipped Mary two bucks"...
...to explain what the dependent clause means...
...and what the dependent clause means is that Mr. Johnson... is a jerk.
Let's try another. Say we have the sentence, "Because the parents were too lazy to go
into the bathroom, they changed their baby's diaper at their table in the middle of the
If the dependent clause "Because the parents were too lazy to go into the bathroom" stood
on its own, we'd be lost. And quite intrigued.
This sentence fragment needs its main clause, "They changed their baby's diaper at their
table in the middle of the restaurant"...
...to provide context...
...and the context provided is that some people... are nasty.
There are some easy ways to check whether or not a sentence is actually a sentence fragment.
If there's a verb, then it's probably a sentence.
If there's only one word...
...and that word is an exclamation or a command...
...then it's a sentence.
If it's a dependent clause with no main clause to tag along with, it's a sentence
fragment. And now we must excuse Mary. She's going
to pay Mr. Johnson back for his lousy tip by slipping some hand soap into his salad.