Grammar Lesson: Sentences, Fragments, and Run-On Sentences

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 14, 2010

A sentence can be a word (Stop!) or a group of words that must contain a subject (doer), a verb (action), and a complete thought.

  • In the sentence, ''Lorina washed her face,'' the subject is Lorina, the verb is washed, and the group of words makes a complete thought.

A fragment is a group of words that might lack a subject or a verb and does not make a complete thought.

  • ''During the trial'' is a fragment since there is no subject, verb, or complete thought.
  • ''Vicki running next to her sister'' is another fragment because, though it has a subject, (Vicki), and possibly a verb (running), the group of words does not make a complete thought. Thus, it is not a sentence.
  • The group of words ''After these stray dogs were placed in the pound'' is also a fragment. It has a subject (dogs) and a verb (were placed), but there is no complete thought.

A run-on sentence is two (or more) sentences incorrectly written as a single sentence.

  • ''The sofa is comfortable, the chair is too'' is an example of a run-on sentence because two complete sentences are incorrectly joined (or spliced) by a comma.
  • Sometimes run-on sentences have no punctuation at all! An example of this is, ''Princeton University is a fine place of higher learning it is located in New Jersey.'' Here, there are really two sentences that have been mistakenly joined or spliced into one.

Activity 1- What's What?

Five sentences (S), five fragments (F), and five run-on sentences (ROS) are found in these fifteen groups of words. Write the appropriate code letter(s) on the line next to the group of words.

  1. ____ Have you already visited that famous London museum?
  2. ____ At the beginning of the movie.
  3. ____ Let's open the presents, we want to see what you have been given.
  4. ____ Last year we photographed some of the events.
  5. ____ Again after all of the applause.
  6. ____ Before they started their photography business.
  7. ____ Please handle these expensive vases with care.
  8. ____ The men fixing the heater need more time, they can bill us more if they need to do so.
  9. ____ During the celebration held at the plaza.
  10. ____ Bring the empty cartons back from the factory they can be used again.
  11. ____ While you dial Molly's number, the rest of us can continue to set the table.
  12. ____ There are too many people in this elevator, who can take another one so this one is not so crowded?
  13. ____ Several telephone operators tried to assist me finally I gave up.
  14. ____ Leaving through the back door in the middle of the night last August.
  15. ____ We would really like to accept your invitation.

Activity 2- Making Sense

All ten groups of words are either fragments or run-on sentences. On a separate sheet of paper, write a logical, grammatically correct version of those words. You can add or delete words, but keep the main idea intact.

Here is an example: ''An unfamiliar car in the driveway.'' This can be changed to ''We noticed an unfamiliar car in the driveway.''

  1. Mount Rushmore is fabulous it is located in South Dakota
  2. Before the storm started
  3. If you think that it is a workable plan
  4. Oliver is a great friend he never speaks badly about anybody
  5. James Short just arrived he is funny
  6. Skateboarding is wonderful exercise my friends and I like to go skateboarding
  7. While the repairman fixed the dishwasher
  8. This author had written for seven consecutive hours she was exhausted
  9. Looking into the car's window
  10. The entertainer sang many songs we like all of them


  • What's What? Sentences, Fragments, and Run-On Sentences
  • Numbers 1, 4, 7, 11, and 15 are sentences.
  • Numbers 2, 5, 6, 9, and 14 are fragments.
  • Numbers 3, 8, 10, 12, and 13 are run-on sentences.
  • Making Sense (and Sentences)

(These are possible answers.)

  1. Mount Rushmore, located in South Dakota, is fabulous.
  2. Before the storm started, we moved the tables and chairs into the shed.
  3. If you think that it is a workable plan, let's go with it.
  4. Oliver is a great friend who never speaks badly about anybody.
  5. The funny James Short just arrived.
  6. My friends and I like to get wonderful exercise by skateboarding.
  7. While the repairman fixed the dishwasher, we watched the documentary about Nigeria.
  8. After the author wrote for seven consecutive hours, she was exhausted.
  9. Looking into the car's window, the police officer spotted the evidence.
  10. We like all the songs that the entertainer sang.
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