Run-on Sentence = two complete sentences connected (often joined by a comma instead of a period) without using a conjunction like and or but.
1. How can you tell it’s a run-on sentence? If you have a run-on, then you have this fundamental sentence structure: subject + predicate + subject + predicate.
2. In most cases, the best thing to do about a run-on is delete the comma and replace it with a period.
- Correct: Michael Phelps wore a purple swim cap. His goggles were foggy.
- Incorrect: Michael Phelps wore a purple swim cap, his goggles were foggy.
3. It’s also okay to have this sentence structure: subject + predicate + conjunction + subject + predicate. However, you must put a comma before the conjunction in that case.
- Example: Michael Phelps wore a purple swim cap, and his goggles were foggy.
Sentence Fragment = a subject that lacks a predicate, or a predicate that lacks a subject.
- Here is an example of a sentence fragment: The world’s fastest swimmer. You see how it needs an action? The reader wonders What does the world’s fastest swimmer do? Or Who is the world’s fastest swimmer?
- When writing a work of fiction, it’s much more acceptable to use sentence fragments, especially when you write a character’s internal monologue (i.e. thoughts). For example, a character might simply think the word, Whatever. And if your character is a teenager, that sort of sentence fragment sounds normal in the form of a thought.
- When tweeting it’s also okay to use sentence fragments to save space. Just make sure they really do make sense.
- Lines of poetry can use sentence fragments, creating beautiful imagery, like we find in a line from “Like the Water” by Wendell Berry which reads, “except we keep returning to its rich waters” (line 16).
- However when writing essays, blog posts, or emails, it’s best to always use complete sentences, and most of the sentences in a work of fiction should also be written with complete sentence structure for clarity’s sake.
Subject = the noun, i.e. the person (author), place (ocean), thing (toy), or idea (war) that does something in a sentence
- How can you tell you’ve found the subject? Look for the verb in the sentence. If the verb is swim, ask yourself who or what does the swimming? That who or what is the subject of your sentence.
- So in a sentence like Michael Phelps goes swimming, you would ask yourself who or what goes swimming? The answer, Michael Phelps, is the subject of your sentence, because he’s the one going swimming—he’s the one doing whatever the verb indicates.
Predicate = the action word (verb) and everything that goes with the action
- How can you tell you’ve found the predicate? Well, if you know what the subject of the sentence is, the rest of the sentence is usually the predicate.
- So in a sentence like Michael Phelps goes swimming, we know going and swimming are both verbs, because you can stick an –ing on the ends of them. So goes swimming is the predicate.
- In a more complex sentence, like Michael Phelps goes swimming for three hours every morning and evening, everything that follows the verb is part of the predicate. So goes swimming for three hours every morning and evening is the predicate, because all of those words follow the verb.
Double Subjects = there’s more than one thing doing the action (also called a “compound subject”)
- But what if Michael Phelps invites his friend along? Then what do we do for a subject? Both people are doing the action, so this is called a double subject.
- For example, take a look at this sentence: Michael Phelps and his teammate, Ryan Lochte, go swimming every morning and evening. In this sentence, the subject of the sentence is Michael Phelps and his friend, Ryan Lochte. This is called a double-subject because two nouns do the action.
Complete Subjects = the subject may include some descriptive words, and these are all part of the complete subject
- Let’s look at the following sentence: Handsome, long-armed Michael Phelps goes swimming for three hours every morning and evening. In this sentence, you must include the modifiers (descriptive words) with the subject, so the complete subject is Handsome, long-armed Michael Phelps.
- What’s the complete subject in a sentence like the one that follows? => Lovely Kim Kardashian might be pretty, but she’s no swimmer. The complete subject is Lovely Kim Kardashian—the noun + the word that describes it (lovely).
Tips on Subjects and Predicates:
- Remember that the subject is never part of a prepositional phrase. So in a sentence like Beside the empty pool, Michael Phelps sat crying his eyes out, the subject of the sentence, is Michael Phelps, not the pool.
- But it is possible to have a pronoun be the subject, like in this case: He was broken-hearted over Kim’s tragic choice. In this case, the simple subject is the pronoun He. The predicate is the verb and all that follows it: was broken-hearted over Kim’s tragic choice.
- Why do we need to know this stuff? It helps us 1.) punctuate sentences correctly, 2.) re-write sentences so they have better fluency, and 3.) understand the meanings of sentences.