The concept of a sentence is different between Korean and English. In Korean or Japanese, a sentence can consist of only a verb leaving the subject out. In Spanish or Romanian, the subject can be found in the verb, so you can also have just a verb as a sentence in Spanish or Romanian. However, in English, a sentence must have a subject and a verb to be a complete sentence. Whenever you write in English, all sentences much be complete. However, when you have a conversation and are speaking, it is acceptable to use incomplete sentences.
- What is a complete and incomplete sentence in English?
A. A complete sentence is a sentence with both a subject and a verb. it must have what is called “an independent clause” meaning the subject and the verb must be in the sentence. A subject is a noun or subject pronoun. A noun is a person, place or thing. Here is a list of the subject pronouns: I, you, he, she , it, we, they. A verb is an action word or a state of being verb like “is, am, are, were, was, or be.” Sometimes there is a word that causes a clause to be dependent rather than independent even if it has a subject and a verb, and in that case, it still isn’t a complete sentence, so would be considered wrong if you were to write it on a page.
B. An incomplete sentence is a group of words that doesn’t have a subject and a verb or perhaps is a dependent clause or phrase.
2. What is an independent and dependent clause?
A. If a clause is independent, it is a sentence no matter what is added to it. It will have a subject and a verb, and none of the words that make it dependent.
B. If a clause is dependent, it can’t exist as a sentence by itself. It needs an independent clause. These clauses begin with specific words: because, but, and or, so, just, etc. Never begin sentence with these kinds of words because students usually make incomplete sentences when they try to begin sentences with these words. If your English skill is high enough to be sure the sentence will still be a sentence, you can begin a sentence with these words, but no a normal basis, until you get a real feel for English, don’t begin sentences with these words.
Example: “I like apples because they taste good.” This is a complete sentence because “I like apples” is an independent clause, and can be a sentence even if “because they taste good” were not there. “Because they taste good” is a dependent clause. It has a subject of the clause, “they, and a verb, “taste, but it is dependent because it begins with “because.”
Example: “I study hard, so I learn a lot of English.” This is a complete sentence. “I study hard” is an independent clause. It has a subject and a verb, and it doesn’t begin with a word that makes it dependent. It can be a sentence even if it didn’t have “so I learn a lot of English.” Again, “so I learn a lot of English” is a dependent clause because it begins with “so.” It has a subject and a verb, so it is a clause, but it can’t be a sentence alone because of “so.”
Example: “I like apples, and he likes oranges.” This is a complete sentence. “I like apples” is the independent clause. It can be a sentence alone. Again, “and he likes oranges” is a dependent clause because of “and,” and it can’t be a sentence all by itself, even though it has a subject and a verb.
Example: “They enjoy Christmas, just like me!” This is a complete sentence. “They enjoy Christmas” is the independent clause, and could be a sentence alone. Again, “just like me!” is a dependent phrase. There is no subject or verb, so it can’t be called a clause. It can’t be a sentence alone either. I could even say, “They like Christmas, just the same as I do.” In this case, “just the same as I do” is not a sentence alone either, but is a dependent clause because “just” makes it dependent and “I,” is the subject and “do” is the verb.
3. Sometimes a noun or a verb can be a phrase. If a noun is a phrase, don’t forget the verb.
Example: “The man who lives next door is a very tall.” Don’t say “The man who lives next door very tall.” In the sentence, “The man who lives next door” is a noun phrase, and it is the subject of the sentence. If you were to re-write this phrase in other words, you could say, “The man living next door,” and this is still not an independent clause either. You still need a verb.
In any case, “lives” nor “living” can’t be the verb of the sentence because you are using it as part of the noun phrase to describe the man. The real verb in this sentence is “is,” so don’t forget it.
Exercise: Label each sentence “complete” or “incomplete.” If the sentence is incomplete, make it complete. The answers are at the end.
- Mary likes to go to school everyday. __________________
- Kim Ju Young writes many essays, and so does Moon Ji Young. _______________
- Sarah is a pretty girl. _____________
- Just like Cathy. _______________
- He studied hard for the test, but he flunked it anyway. ______________
- Because I like to study. ________________
- My homework is fun, so I do it first thing when I get home from school everyday. __________________
- Tom Sawyer didn’t want to paint the fence. So he tricked the other boys into painting the fence. _______________
- But I don’t want to go home. ______________
- Is a pretty girl. _____________
- The big black cat who eats a lot of food by the door everyday terribly scary. _________________
- incomplete. Sarah is a pretty girl, just like Cathy.
- incomplete. I do my homework everyday because I like to study.
- The first sentence is complete. The second sentence is incomplete. To make it complete: Tom Sawyer didn’t want to paint the fence, so he tricked the other boys into painting the fence.
- incomplete. He wants me to go home, but I don’t want to go home.
- incomplete. Sarah is a pretty girl.
- incomplete. The big black cat who eats a lot of food by the door everyday is terribly scary.