1. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Sentence fragments

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by marcusl, Sep 20, 2009.

    I would like to know what a sentence fragment is. A while ago, I wrote something along the lines of, "She fashioned glittering eyes". Apparently, that's a fragmented sentence. What if I wrote "She had glittering eyes" instead? I would love to know the rules behind this. Thanks very much.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A sentence fragment lacks a required component. In formal terms, it does not parse to a complete sentence. Most commonly, that comes down to either:

    subject intransitive-verb.
    or
    subject transitive-verb direct-object.

    (ignoring modifiers, compound subjects/objects, and compound sentences)

    Your sentence is not a fragment if "She" makes glittering eyes, e.g. for mannikins or for taxidermists.
     
  3. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    For a whole book written in fragmented sentences, consult 'Once Were Warriors'

    It's a very interesting read.
     
  4. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    Just one comment– and, o lord, my first!– to marcus:

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with using sentence fragments. We do it in speech constantly, and anywhere you are transcribing speech, it would not read naturally if it were all in complete sentences.

    And in other writing situations as well: a sentence fragment is usually only a full stop away from the rest of its sentence.
     
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  5. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Thank you for your replies. I'm not entirely comfortable with defining what a subject intransitive-verb is. Is it a verb that only relates to one noun? As in, it doesn't affect a second object? I would appreciate a beginner's definition of what it means.

    So, I'm guessing this is a sentence fragment:

    His eyes glittered under the sunlight.

    How about this:

    Her eyes reflected the sunlight.

    Is that a fragment as well? Thanks very much for your help.
     
  6. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    And what a first fine reply that is, Mister M.

    Marcus

    Intransitive verb, sounds scarier than it is. It's just a verb that can't take an object (remember your basic word order S V O (subject, verb, object): 'sleeps' is intransitives because you can't write 'She (object) sleeps (verb) the car (object). the verb just can't take the stress of it. The 'object' would have to be changed into a circumstance via a preposition 'She sleeps IN the car.' So technically you have 'She sleeps' with the added circumstance 'in the car'. But like Mister M said, fragments are a natural part of language and therefore they have their place.

    But to be honest, I don't have a problem with 'she fashioned glittering eyes'.

    On the 'Her eyes reflected the sunlight'. with the intransitive verb, it's got a pretty final feeling to it. You say 'she sleeps', 'she dies' you're not really left asking much of the verb. A transitive verb leaves you needing something more: her eyes reflected... what exactly? You need an object (noun pharse) there 'the sun'.
     
  7. Syne
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    Syne Member

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    Marcus, here is a simple explanation of sentence fragments. At any rate, none of the sentences you've written here are fragments. Here are a couple examples of fragments:

    "I will bring."
    "Even as he sat motionless."
    "The beautiful china vase."
    "It was glaringly."

    If you're using Word to check your grammar, you should take its advice with a grain of salt. While it may be correct sometimes, to my experience, it's often not. Luckily, it's more likely to mark sentences needlessly than miss glaring grammar errors.
    (I say this because Word has often needlessly marked fragments for me.)

    Moreover, while a sentence fragment is a technical error, it may not always be undesirable. Sentence fragments are often used by professional authors and journalists for emphasis and other stylistic effects.

    Sound of Silence, hate to be a prude again, but 'sleep' is actually both an intransitive verb and a transitive verb! :p
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    marcus...
    those are full sentences, because the contain both a subject and a predicate/verb...

    His eyes glittered under the sunlight.

    Her eyes reflected the sunlight.

    if it were missing either of the two, it would be a fragment:

    Her eyes.

    Reflected the sunlight.

    in the second example, 'sunlight' while also a noun, is the object of the sentence, not the subject...

    does that help you to understand it all better?
     

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