IDENTIFYING FRAGMENTS AND CLAUSES Introduction Fragments

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					                    IDENTIFYING FRAGMENTS AND CLAUSES



             In this module, you will learn to do the following:
             • Distinguish between sentence fragments and clauses
             • Identify the four major causes of fragments
             • Convert fragments into clauses
             • Use fragments effectively.




Introduction
We'll look at sentence fragments and at clauses. We need to be able to identify sentence
fragments and clauses because such identification is vital to our grasp of sentence
punctuation.

Fragments
We are not concerned with complete or incomplete thoughts. Neither are we concerned
with dependent or independent clauses. We are concerned only with whether or not a
group of words is a clause or a fragment. So let's define what we mean by clauses and
fragments.

To be a clause, a group of words must contain both a subject and a verb.

A fragment is a group of words that does NOT contain a subject or a verb or both.

While both definitions seem straightforward enough, why is it that so many punctuation
errors are committed? The answer rests in the fact that certain fragments are wrongly
identified as clauses, leading to a variety of punctuation errors. So what we're going to do
in the next few sections is to examine why fragments are wrongly identified as clauses.
Along the way, we'll also discover methods of correcting various errors that stem from
wrongly identifying fragments as clauses.

The wrong identification stems from four basic causes:
1. No subjects
2. No verbs
3. Short answers
4. Added afterthoughts.

       No Subjects
Obviously, if a group of words does not contain a subject, the group cannot be a clause.
Study the following examples.

Sentence:
"Yesterday, walked to school in the rain."

Identify the subject and the verb.
We recognize the complete verb "walked."
We ask: Who or what did the walking?
We have no answer to the question. There is no noun or pronoun that we can identify as
the doer of the action.
Therefore, the sentence is not a clause, but a fragment.

Correction
The sentence lacks a subject, so the obvious solution is to provide a subject.
"Yesterday, Margaret walked to school in the rain."

The fragment has been corrected and converted into a clause by the provision of a
subject.

        No Verbs
Similar to lacking a subject, if a group of words does not contain a verb, the group cannot
be a clause.
Sentence:
"The racer at the finish line."

There is no word that we can identify as the verb in the sentence. Therefore, the sentence
is not a clause, but a fragment.

Correction
Let's provide a verb.
"The racer collapsed at the finish line."

The fragment has been corrected and converted into a clause by the provision of a verb.

        Gerund Errors
The next concept is a bit more challenging but is the concept that contributes to the
majority of errors. The concept is the gerund error, a variation of the lack of verb concept.

In this type of error, the writer confuses verb parts (usually present participles) for verbs.
The resulting sentence often lacks a subject and part of a verb. The writer is seldom
conscious of faulty sentences because they reflect normal conversation and its structure.
Let's examine this concept by looking at the origin of these errors. More information about
gerunds can be found in "Identifying Nouns and Adjectives" and in "Identifying Infinitives
and Participles as Subjects."

We'll start with a short script of normal conversation.

Sally: "Have you found a job yet, Bill"?
Bill: "No, and I'm really discouraged."
Sally: "What's happened"?
Bill: "I wasted the better part of a week. Going from one interview to another. I don't have
much hope left."

I think you can see Bill's faulty sentence. Mind you, such sentences are quite acceptable in
conversation because the listener cannot see the periods and other punctuation marks. In
addition, if you need to write dialogue for scripts, commercials, or fiction, you will have to
become familiar with fragments.
Let's examine Bill's faulty "sentence."
Sentence:
"Going from one interview to another."
We recognize the participle "Going."
We know that a participle can be a verb only if it has helping verbs.
We search the rest of the sentence and find no helping verbs.
Thus, "Going" is not a verb.
There are no other words that can be verbs.

Lacking a verb, the sentence cannot have a subject either.
Therefore, the sentence is not a clause, but a fragment.

Correction
Let's provide a subject and a helping verb for the participle "Going."
"I was going from one interview to another."

The fragment has been corrected and converted into a clause by the provision of a subject
and a helping verb to complete a verb phrase.

Sentence fragments arising from the gerund error are the most common in technical and
business writing. But right on the heels of the gerund error is the short-answer error.

        Short-answer Error
Let's continue Sally and Bill's conversation to discover the second most common cause of
sentence fragments.

Sally: "A job will turn up."
Bill: "Not in my lifetime."

In Bill's statement, we recognize no word that can serve as a verb.

Therefore, the sentence is not a clause, but a fragment.
Let's provide a subject and a verb.
"A job will not turn up in my lifetime."

A subject and a verb have transformed the fragment into a clause.

       Added Afterthoughts
The added-afterthought error is almost as common as the short-answer fragment. The
main difference between the two is that the short answer is a fragment in response to
another person's speech while an added afterthought is a fragment in response to your
own speech. Let's clarify this by continuing Sally and Bill's conversation.

Sally: "Have you tried all the convenience stores"?
Bill: "I've tried them all. Except those on Maple Street."

Sally's sentence and Bill's first are properly constructed as clauses, but what about Bill's
last sentences?
"Except those on Maple Street."

His sentence lacks an action word--lacks a verb. Lacking a verb, the sentence cannot
have a subject. Therefore, the sentence is not a clause, but a fragment.

Comment
Did you notice how in the short answer and in the added afterthought we needed to refer
to the preceding sentences in order to provide a subject and/or verb for these kinds of
fragments? This contextual reference is the main reason fragments go unnoticed in the
course of casual conversation. While such fragments are acceptable in conversation, we
cannot write in fragments as technical or business writers. But as professional writers we
may find a need to mimic casual conversation in our writing. Then, of course, we will need
to use fragments. When that need arises, do not construct fragments without care and
thought. In this module, you learned how fragments are created and how they are
corrected. Use this knowledge to construct convincing fragments when you need to use
them.

Exercises
Select the answer that correctly identifies this group of words as either a fragment or a
clause. The answers appear after the last question.

1. A dreary winter without much sun
A. Fragment           B. Clause

2. She was delighted
A. Fragment          B. Clause

3. Was always a problem for me
A. Fragment         B. Clause

4. The announcement reminding me
A. Fragment       B. Clause

5. Many young people intend to go to college
A. Fragment        B. Clause

6. In the room, the noisy party ending
A. Fragment           B. Clause

7. They will drive
A. Fragment            B. Clause

8. Last seen at the end of March
A. Fragment           B. Clause

9. It was raining cats and dogs
A. Fragment            B. Clause

10. Wanting to try again
A. Fragment            B. Clause

11. Being cold and windy
A. Fragment           b. Clause

12. And she had many interests
A. Fragment         B. Clause

13. Physics is always a problem
A. Fragment                       B. Clause

14. About my job, for one thing
A. Fragment            B. Clause

15. Nevertheless, few will succeed
A. Fragment           B. Clause

16. The guests to bring a non-perishable food item
A. Fragment            B. Clause

17. But not to Winnipeg for the Grey Cup
A. Fragment           B. Clause

18. And coming home soon
A. Fragment         B. Clause

19. There were poodles in the street
A. Fragment          B. Clause

20. He tried his best
A. Fragment                       B. Clause

Answers
1, A. 2, B. 3, A. 4, A. 5, B. 6, A. 7, B. 8, A. 9, B. 10, A. 11, A. 12, B. 13, B. 14, A. 15, B. 16, A. 17, A. 18, A. 19, B. 20, B.