Communication, Email Writing, Grammar, Writing

Incomplete Sentences, Incomplete Thoughts

A sentence can still be incomplete, even if it has a subject and a verb.

In two of our previous articles, we looked at sentences that are incomplete because they are missing a subject, as well as sentences that are incomplete because they are missing a verb. Unfortunately, a sentence can still be incomplete even if it does have a subject and a verb. Consider the following examples:

Because he dropped out of school.

After we left the meeting.

Since Raul already spoke with the representative from ABC Company.

None of these can be considered a full, complete sentence. Each one has a noun to serve as the subject of the sentence. Each one also has a verb. Still, these sentences don’t sound right. The reader is left wondering what happened to the rest of the sentence.

If a sentence does not form a complete thought, then it is an incomplete sentence.

Birds fly.

Unless our repair technician can find some spare parts.

The first sentence has only two words, yet it forms a complete thought. The second sentence has nine words, yet it does not form a complete thought. It is like a table that is missing a leg. It cannot stand on its own.

How can you change this sentence to make it complete?

One simple solution is to take out the first word, “Unless”.

Our repair technician can find some spare parts.

Okay, this is now a complete, grammatically correct sentence. However, the meaning has been changed. The “Unless” at the beginning of the sentence suggests that spare parts are not readily available. Now that “Unless” has been removed, it sounds as if the repair technician will indeed be able to find the spare parts without any problems.

What should we do now?

Fortunately for the editors at TextRanch, these kinds of incomplete sentences are usually part of a larger body of text. We can often figure out how to correct them after we have read the whole text. It is especially important to keep a close eye on the sentences that come right before, or right after, the incomplete sentence.

Going back to our example sentence, the full text might look like this:

Your printer was manufactured by a company that is no longer in business. We won’t be able to fix it. Unless our repair technician can find some spare parts.

Yay, now we have some context! We can also see how the incomplete sentence fits with the sentence that comes before it. If we combine the two, here is the result:

Your printer was manufactured by a company that is no longer in business. We won’t be able to fix it unless our repair technician can find some spare parts.

This sounds so much better!

You can use this same strategy if you come across an incomplete sentence when you are checking your own writing. Chances are, your incomplete sentence can be combined with the sentence that comes before it, or the sentence that comes after it. If you still can’t find a way to correct your incomplete sentence, the editors at TextRanch will be happy to help you.

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