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 Help for LPI, IELTS, TOEFL, SAT and Grade 12 Students by Michele Wong
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"Sentence Structure Problems"

 
 
 
 

1. Sentence Fragments
a)
Sentences must have a Main Verb or a Linking Verb; otherwise they are considered incomplete.

 
 

Incorrect:
Tim vegetable pasta yesterday. The pasta was good.

Correct:
Tim was making vegetable pasta yesterday. The pasta was good. (main verb) (linking verb)

 
  b) Unnecessary relative pronouns (eg. which) or demonstrative pronouns (eg. that) can lead to sentence fragments.  
 

Incorrect:
Mrs. Smith whose dog bit her neighbour.

Correct:
Mrs. Smith's dog bit her neighbour.

Mrs. Smith, whose dog bit her neighbour, has decided to replace her pet with a cat.

 
       
 

Incorrect:
The house that was repainted.

Correct:
This is the house that was repainted.

 
 
 
  2. Run-On Sentences
a) Run-on sentences occur when independent clauses are connected without a conjunction.
 
 

Incorrect:
Building more factories can help the local economy factories can present pollution problems.

Correct:
Building more factories can help the local economy but factories can present pollution problems.

 
  b) Run-on sentences occur when independent clauses are connected without the right punctuation.  
 

Incorrect:
Jane woke up late today she missed her school bus.

Correct:
Jane woke up late today; she missed her school bus.

 
 
 
  3. Comma Splices
Some independent clauses need more than a comma to connect them.
 
 

Incorrect:
I like playing chess, I take a long time making a chess move.

Correct:
I like playing chess but I take a long time making a chess move.

I like playing chess; I take a long time making a chess move.

 
 
 
  4. Faulty Coordination
a) Using the correct conjunctions will help clarify the importance or the contrasting ideas of each clause. This will make the sentence clearer and establish the right relationship of one clause to another.
 
 

Incorrect:
He never studied and he passed his examinations.

Correct:
He never studied but he passed his examinations.

 
  b) Redundant coordination: one should not use too many unnecessary subordinating or coordinating words.  
 

Incorrect:
Although Ken loves watching hockey, but he hates playing contact sports.

Correct:
Although Ken loves watching hockey, he hates playing contact sports.

 
 
 
  5. Faulty Subordination
Some clauses have more importance than others. Subordination will help clarify their importance and relationship to one another. This will result in a subordinate clause should being joined correctly to an independent clause Use the right subordinate conjunction or joining word/phrase such as because, when, where or since, and this etc.
 
 

Incorrect:
Ted was promoted as manager of sales department and has never sold any product
in his life.

Correct:
Although Ted has never sold any product in his life, he was promoted as manager of the sales department.

 
       
 

Incorrect:
Lying to her father who loved her dearly was a mistake which caused her great heartache.

Correct:
Lying to her father, who loved her dearly, was a mistake and this lie caused her great heartache. (ie. It was the lie and not the father loving her that caused heartache.)

 
 
 
  6. Faulty or Mixed Construction
Sometimes the early part of a sentence does not fit the later part of the sentence. The grammar or the logic will often be incorrect and the subject of the sentence is often unclear.
 
 

Incorrect:
The students' fundraising target was ten thousand dollars and are planning to reach that figure by next week.

Correct:
The students' fundraising target was ten thousand dollars, and they are planning to reach that figure by next week.

 
 
 
  7. Dangling Modifier
The subject should follow after the participial phrase that it is related to otherwise it may not be clear what the actual subject is.
 
 

Incorrect:
Flying low above the ranges, a mountain was almost hit by the plane.

Correct:
Flying low above the ranges, the plane almost hit a mountain.

 
 
 
  8. Misplaced Modifier
A word, phrase or clause should be placed in the right position in relation to the noun or thing that it is modifying.
 
 

Incorrect:
She repaired the watch for her husband with a broken spring.

Correct:
She repaired the watch with a broken spring for her husband.

 
 
 
  9. Incorrect Comparisons
Sometimes, we forget what we are comparing. Use the right punctuation and avoid using ultra long sentences which could lead to more confusion over what is being compared. A word, phrase or clause should be placed in the right position in relation to the noun or thing that it is modifying.
 
 

Incorrect:
The population of America is larger and more diverse than Japan.

Correct:
The population of America is larger and more diverse than Japan's.

The population of America is larger and more diverse than that of Japan.

 
 
 
  10. Non-Parallel Sentence
A sentence should have its series of clauses or its list of elements parallel, ie: within the same grammatical form.
a) Use tenses consistently if and when applicable.
 
 

Incorrect:
Woke early, driving fast and taken all the short cuts, we made it to the campsite before any of the other campers.

Correct:
Waking early, driving fast and taking all the short cuts, we made it to the campsite before any of the other campers.

 
  b) Use all gerunds or infinitives.  
 

Incorrect:
To dance, make music and painting are my favourite hobbies.

Correct:
Dancing, making music and painting are my favourite hobbies.

 
  c) Use all adjectives.  
 

Incorrect:
I like people who think of others, are neat and can speak well.

Correct:
I like people who are considerate, neat and articulate.

 
  d) Use a key preposition, modal or a relative pronoun that ties a series of phrases or subordinate clauses together.  
 

 

Correct:
With
his six children, late working hours and huge mortgage, Tom never seems to have a day without worry.

Jim is the kind of man who likes nature, camps alone and reflects too much.

 
 
 

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