Grammar Review Exercises

[The following exercises have been prepared by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC.  These pages are in the public domain and may be used, in whole or in part, by anyone, without permission and without charge, provided the source is acknowledged.  Last revised April 2002]

Sentence Fragments

[Note that the introductory numbered sections come from Guide to the Marking of Written Assignment, Section One, available through this link Guide 1]

Exercises in Recognizing and Correcting Sentence Fragments

Exercise 1

Each numbered set of words below is set up as a complete sentence (i.e., it begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop or question mark.  Indicate which ones are indeed complete sentences (that is, all right in the present form) and which ones are incomplete (that is, are sentence fragments).  See if you can identify what essential part is missing in each sentence fragment (subject, verb, predicate).

1. I read the book yesterday evening after dinner.

2. While reading the book yesterday evening after dinner.

3. There is the car which ran into me on the street.

4. Which ran into me on the street.

5.  For example, that man over there.

6. The woman who talked to you in the corridor is my English professor.

7.  Who talked to me in the corridor.

8.  Who talked to you in the corridor?

9.  Considering all the factors in this case, I think that he is guilty.

10. Considering all the factors in this case.

11. That he is guilty.

12. Which was a stupid thing to do.

13.  Consuming illegal drugs can be very risky.  Especially hard drugs like heroin or crack cocaine.

Exercise 2

In each of the following groups of sentences identify the sentence fragments (note that they may not all have sentence fragments). Correct the fragment.

1. We all agreed that the accused person was guilty. Considering all the evidence. Which is the verdict the jury reached.

2. Which is the better of the two cars? For example, these two over here.

3. In the World Cup I bet money on the European countries who fought against the Germans in World War II. That is, on England, France, Holland, Scotland, and Croatia. Which turned out to be a smart plan.

4. Hamlet constantly postpones killing Claudius. As far as I can see, not having any clear excuse but always thinking about something which will enable him to avoid taking a good opportunity.

5. There are many references in this poem to the fertility of nature. For example, phrases like "fruitfulness," "harvest ready," and "ripe."

6. The experiment which I carried out last Tuesday, in which we asked fifteen people to come into the laboratory and have their reflexes measured, was a great success.

7. She said many interesting things about her adventures. That on different expeditions she had climbed Mt McKinley, paddled down the Amazon River, and gone across Africa in a balloon.

8. I don't understand the basic details of the argument. The initial assumptions and the definition of human nature being totally ambiguous.

9. Where did you camp last night? We found a place on an island in the middle of the lake. Where there was a prepared camping spot.

10. I walked into my new English class yesterday night. It was full of eager students. Who sat there waiting for me to start talking.

11. My brother always likes to take chances.  Especially with extreme sports.

Exercise 3

Identify (by underlining) the sentence fragments in the following passage. Then rewrite the passage correcting the sentence fragments. Do not change the basic sense or attend to anything other than the fragments.

I like to visit the college gymnasium regularly for exercise. There is a weight room there with lots of equipment. For example, Stairmaster machines, weights, a rowing machine, and exercise mats. I do some warm-up routines and then start on the Stairmaster. Which is a fine way to get a good cardiovascular workout. The full routine taking about forty minutes, without a break. The supervisor there gave  me some good advice about the stretching exercises. That I should hold the positions longer. Otherwise the effects do not really work well. I took her advice. Doing various yoga routines for ninety seconds each, which seems like a long time, but being worth it in the long run. Because otherwise I don't warm up properly. And I've set myself a long-term program for 30-minute sessions on the Stairmaster. Two weeks on Level 4, another two on Level 5, three weeks on  Level 6, and then a month on Level 7. And then maybe holding steady on Level 8. The only thing I don't like is the music. Which often features rap lyrics full of swearwords.. I don't like to complain, but it really annoys me. Considering all the other kinds of  music they could play. Which would be a lot more enjoyable. Where do some people get their musical taste?

Final Advice

If sentence fragment is an error which crops up frequently in your own style, then the most effective immediate remedy is to simplify your style drastically.  Write short, clear sentences on the subject-verb-object pattern.  Confine yourself to saying things as simply as possible, in sentences with relatively few words.  The result may sound too simple and repetitive, but if you are still unsure how to avoid a sentence fragment, then you will have to resort to something like that in order to keep the sentences correct.  Here is a sample of such a simplified style.

Illegal drugs are an important social problem.  Every year consumption increases.  The police keep fighting the drug war.  But they do not seem to succeed.  Prices of drugs on the street continue to decline.  Attacks on those who produce drugs have no effect.  Many people are arrested.  The courts send many of these to jail.  But the problem continues.  Maybe we should re-think what we are doing.  Maybe we are just wasting our money.

Notice that all the sentences have fewer than ten words.  Such a style is choppy and simple, but it is clear.  And it avoids creating sentence fragments.


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