Complete Sentences

Teachers often tell you to write in complete sentences.

But what, exactly, is a "complete sentence"?

Here are two common definitions:

1. A complete sentence has a subject and a predicate.

Subject Predicate
The dog chased the rabbit.
The singer is talented.
My friend won the race.


2. A complete sentence has at least one clause.

The problem with this definition is that a clause is notoriously difficult to define.

Earlier we defined a clause as "a pattern of words that consists of a subject and a predicate."

Now, having studied clauses in some detail, we can give a more precise definition:

A clause is any group of words that fits into one of the five basic clause patterns.

5 Basic Clause Patterns
  1. equative (S=C)
  2. intransitive (SV)
  3. transitive (SVO)
  4. ditransitive (SVOiOd)
  5. dummy subject (It is / It was)


Key Point:

If a sentence does not have at least one clause, it is not a "complete" sentence!