A sentence fragment is a statement that cannot stand alone as a sentence, even though it might look like it should be able to. A sentence fragment may be lacking a subject, a verb, or both. It might even contain words that look like subjects and verbs.
Example 1. Many people standing dangerously close to the edge of the cliff.
Although "standing" looks like a verb, it needs an auxiliary verb to go with it:
Many people were standing dangerously close to the edge of the cliff.
Example 2. Even though there are two types of flowers growing in the garden.
Even though this clause contains a subject and verb, it is incomplete. Why? The term "even though" is a subordinating conjunction that marks the beginning of a dependent clause.
There are several subordinating conjunctions that render a clause dependent. To demonstrate this, consider that the phrase "People eat" can be a complete sentence. It contains a subject and a verb, and it sends a clear and complete message.
If you put a subordinating conjunction with this phrase, something strange happens. It no longer stands alone as a sentence.
The following are subordinating conjunctions. Try putting "people eat" after each of these words, and think about the result.
- even though
- so that
A phrase such as "When people eat" just leaves you waiting for completion. It is clearly a fragment. With a little practice, you will see that a sentence fragment is easy to detect because fragments leave you with a sense of unfinished business!