Fragments and Run-On Sentences:

by on August 26th, 2010

By Guest Author, Jordan Schonig. Jordan is a GMAT expert for Grockit.

The Sentence Correction portion of the GMAT includes two closely-related but rather opposite grammar errors: fragments and run-on sentences. Fragments and run-ons are complementary errors in that each error renders a sentence incomplete, either by lacking information (fragments) or containing too much information (run-ons).

Sentence Fragments

Sentence fragments are sentences that lack one or more of the necessary components of a sentence. What are the necessary components of a sentence, you ask? A subject and a verb. (Please notice that the sentence I just wrote, “A subject and a verb,” is a fragment and would be totally wrong on the GMAT. Copy that fragment into a Word document, and you’ll surely recognize the squiggly underline of death).

  1. A sentence fragment is a dependent clause or incomplete thought that stands alone as a sentence. This negates the very definition of a dependent clause!
    • Running through the park on a Saturday morning. (this lacks a subject: who is running?)
    • The man in the alley, who was digging through the dumpster. (this lacks a predicate: the man in the alley, who was digging, did what?)
    • Because I ran through the park on a Saturday morning. (This is a dependent clause: why did I run through the park?)
  2. To fix these, make sure you complete the incomplete idea by adding the missing subject or verb, adding the missing independent clause, or transforming the dependent clause into an independent clause.
    • I ran through the park on a Saturday morning.
    • The man in the alley, who was digging through the dumpster, was covered in dirt.
    • Because I ran through the park on a Saturday morning, I felt energized for the rest of the day.

N.B.: Most of us assume that “fragments,” as they are so named, are short sentences. While fragments are defined by what components they lack, fragments can be long, drawn-out sentences. Check out these examples:

  1. “An entertaining and complex novel that combines the great storytelling of nineteenth century romanticism with the philosophical density of modernism, subverting the suffocating propriety of its age with startling realism.”
    • Yikes. This sentence is so long, complicated, and messy that you may overlook the fact that it lacks a subject and a verb. There are a few ways to fix it. (The added subject and verb are in bold).
    • Fix 1: An entertaining and complex novel that combines the great storytelling of nineteenth century romanticism with the philosophical density of modernism, Lady Chatterley’s Lover subverts the suffocating propriety of its age with startling realism.
    • Fix 2: Lady Chatterley’s Lover is an entertaining and complex novel that combines the great storytelling of nineteenth century romanticism with the philosophical density of modernism, subverting the suffocating propriety of its age with startling realism.
    • Fix 3: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, an entertaining and complex novel, combines the great storytelling of nineteenth century romanticism with the philosophical density of modernism, subverting the suffocating propriety of its age with startling realism.

Run-on Sentences

Run-on sentences connect two or more independent clauses without the proper connectors (commas, semicolons, and/or conjunctions). It’s generally pretty easy to spot a blatant run-on like this:

“On Saturday, Jane and I went to the mall we had a good time.”

Clearly, there are two sentences in the sentence that are not separated by a period or colon. Since this is so obvious, the GMAT will tend to use a common type of run-on sentence: the comma splice.

Comma Splices

  1. Comma splices occur when two independent clauses are joined by a comma without the appropriate coordinating conjunction or without a semicolon in place of the comma.
    • I enjoyed the lecture, it was full of interesting information.
  2. To fix the sentence, replace the comma with a semicolon, insert a coordinating conjunction after the comma, or make one of the independent clauses dependent.
    • I enjoyed the lecture; it was full of interesting information.
    • I enjoyed the lecture, and it was full of interesting information.
    • I enjoyed the lecture because it was full of interesting information.
    • Because it was full of interesting information, I enjoyed the lecture.

In each case, I’ve fixed the main problem of the run-on sentence; each of the four corrections has two clauses that grammatically share the space of one sentence.

Remember, fragments are not sentences that are too short, and run-ons are not sentences that are too long. Each error is defined by a specific error that renders a sentence incomplete.

2 comments

  • The information you have provided here will be a great asset when looking at both fragments and run-on sentences. This is a great area to focus on for speeding up our tests.

  • need help in revising the fragments sentences.
    In “Titus Andronicus” by shakespare and “Antigone” by Sophocles, Titus and Creon share some charactertics. The revere in age and desire for kinship. Their revere toward traitors who go against their state. Their excessive pride, that ends in tragedy.

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