GIF by dbrloveless

In order for a sentence to be “complete,” it has to have three characteristics:

  1. It must begin with a capital letter.
  2. It must end with a period [.], question mark, [?], or exclamation point [!].
  3. It must have at least one main clause, which itself contains a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought.

Clearly, the trickiest point is #3. We’ll get into that a little later. First, check out some examples of complete sentences:

  • My cat eats sandwiches for lunch.
  • There was an earthquake yesterday!
  • Did you forget to do your homework?

If a main clause exists in the sentence, you can add other elements and still maintain a complete sentence:

  • No matter what, my cat eats sandwiches for lunch.
  • To Peter's surprise, there was an earthquake yesterday!
  • I didn't have to ask Nan, “Did you forget to do your homework?”

Let’s take one sentence and add all kinds of stuff to it—and still maintain a complete sentence:

Chewie barked at a squirrel.

  • When we took him for a walk, Chewie barked at a squirrel.
  • Chewie barked at a squirrel and chased it around the yard.
  • Feeling threatened, Chewie barked at a squirrel.
  • Chewie barked at a squirrel, causing the easily-irritated neighbors to file a complaint.
  • Because he likes the sound of his voice, Chewie barked at a squirrel.
  • Chewie barked at a squirrel for hours, after which he took a much-needed nap.
  • At the playground, Chewie barked at a squirrel, but when he saw what the squirrel had done to an Ewok, Chewie fled in terror.

Beware of Fragments

Many statements that sound like complete sentences actually aren’t. The main reason is that they lack a main clause, thereby making them fragments.

Here are some fragments:

  • Since the weather is nice.
  • Burning the cookies to a crisp.
  • To hand in his essay on time.
  • Two phones, six laptop computers, four tablets, a digital scanner, and a sandwich.
  • And peeked through the windows, scaring everyone inside.

All of the above examples are missing a main clause. The following revisions turn them into complete sentences:

  • Since the weather is nice, let’s take a trip to the beach.
  • Nan forgot to turn off the oven, burning the cookies to a crisp.
  • Henry ran all the way to class to hand in his essay on time.
  • Peter found two phones, six laptop computers, four tablets, a digital scanner, and a sandwich beside his desk.
  • We arrived at the cafe and peeked through the windows, scaring everyone inside.
Peek-a-BOO!

Peek-a-BOO!