Meredith Grammar Review
A forum and a resource
When communicating in standard English, we rely on sentences to convey what we call a complete thought. A unit of complete thought consists of an actor (person or thing) and an action or a comment on the actor's state of being. Sentences (That is, strings of words that look like sentences) fail to convey a unit of complete thought when they omit one of these elements or when they confuse the message with too many elements and not enough cues to help the reader sort through them. This section introduces sentence problems by their grammatical classifications. A tutorial at the end asks you to identify sentence problems by type. Suggested revisions appear in the answers.
This section will make more sense if you are able to identify
clauses and phrases. The last tutorial in "Parts of Speechs" tests your
knowledge of these sentence elements.
Scroll down to begin.
Sentence Fragments (Bedford 19)
Lacking a verb: Helena's car being the only one that could carry all of our equipment.
Note that "being" is a participial form of the verb "to be." It is not acting as a verb in the sentence.
Correct: Helen's car was the only one that could carry all of our equipment.
Lacking a subject: Going with our biology teacher to visit the marine aquarium research lab.
Correct: We are going with our biology teacher to visit the marine aquarium research lab.
Note that this sentence also needs the helping verb "are" to make it complete.
Another possibility: Going with our biology teacher to visit the marine aquarium research lab turned out to be a great idea.
In this version, we have made a subject of the participial form "going" and then added another verb, "turned out."
Including a subordinating conjunction: Although we booked our reservations four months in advance.
"Although," a subordinating conjunction, restricts the meaning of this clause. Logically, the clause relies upon additional information to make it complete. If a person said just that much to you, you would be left wondering what else happened. The "although" sets up a contrast: Did the people lose their seats through overbooking? Did they find their flight canceled? A subordinating conjunction signals that the clause it begins is dependent upon an independent clause.
Correct: We booked our reservations four months in advance. This version simply removes the subordinating conjunction, thus creating an independent clause.
Correct: Although we booked our reservations four months in advance, we still lost our seats through overbooking.
The second revision supplies an independent clause which completes the meaning of the sentence.
Run-on or Fused Sentences (Bedford 20)
Fused sentence: The boys ran a marathon they didn't win though.
This fused sentence includes two independent clauses: "The boys (subject) ran (verb) a marathon" and "they (subject) didn't win (verb) though." To correct such a sentence, try one of the following:
Punctuate: The boys ran a marathon; they didn't win, though.
A semicolon can connect these closely related clauses.
Divide: The boys ran a marathon. They didn't win, though.
These two independent clauses can stand alone. Note that any situation which allows for a semicolon also offers the option of separating the clauses into two sentences.
Subordinate: Although the boys ran a marathon, they didn't win.
The first clause in this revision is now subordinate, or logically and structurally dependent upon the main clause.
Like run-ons or fused sentences, comma splices contain too much information. They are essentially two independent clauses joined by a comma.
Comma splice: She painted the sunroom, the colors softened the room.
The two independent clauses are "She painted the sunroom" and "the colors softened the room." This sentence problem can be corrected in three ways:
Add a semicolon: She painted the sunroom; the colors softened the room.
Divide: She painted the sunroom. The colors softened the room.
Add a coordinating conjunction: She painted the sunroom, and the colors softened the room.
Tutorial #1: Identify Sentence Errors
Before you can correct sentence problems, you need to diagnose the error. Study the sentence, and hover on each choice until you discover the problem. Then check out a correct version of the sentence.