Communication, Email Writing, Grammar, Writing

Incomplete Sentences: When the Verb Is Missing

Every sentence needs both a subject and a verb or else it isn’t a complete sentence. We have already looked at sentences that are missing a subject. Now we will see what happens when a sentence does not have a verb.

Action verbs and non-action verbs

There are two basic types of verbs. Action verbs tell you what the subject is doing. Non-action verbs tell you about the subject’s condition or state of being.

Here are some simple example sentences. In each one, the verb is highlighted in boldface type. Can you tell which sentences have an action verb and which ones have a non-action verb?

Joe threw the ball.

Birds fly across the sky.

I worked every day last week.

Karina loves ballet.

Florence is on the university track team.

Mr. Zhang has 25 students in his fifth-grade class.

The first three sentences have action verbs, while the second three sentences have non-action verbs.

Now let’s look at some incomplete sentences where the verb is missing.

Javier outside the cafe.

The football game in ten minutes.

Kate’s weird sister over there.

Our TextRanch editors can easily add a verb to each of these sentences, making them grammatically correct. However, what we cannot do is guess which verbs are the right ones for that particular scenario. This is one of the reasons why we encourage our customers to leave a note when they submit a text. If a word is missing, we are more likely to guess correctly if we have a note to give us additional context.

Using the first of the above three sentences as an example, here is just a small number of the possible verbs that could fit:

Javier is outside the cafe.

Javier was outside the cafe.

Javier waited outside the cafe.

Javier sings outside the cafe.

Javier tripped outside the cafe.

There are even more possibilities if you use a form of the verb “to be” followed by the “-ing” form of an action verb. This is called the progressive tense, and it shows ongoing action.

Javier is smoking outside the cafe.

Javier is crying outside the cafe.

Javier is laughing outside the cafe.

Of all these verbs, which one is the right one? Only the author of the text would know for sure. Going back to the other incomplete sentences we looked at earlier, maybe the football game starts in ten minutes, or maybe it ends in ten minutes. As for Kate’s weird sister, what exactly is she doing over there? Without a verb (or a note to give us more information about the context), we will never know.

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