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Clearly, in some cases an isolated list cannot be a sentence. For example,

Apples, oranges, and bananas.

is not a sentence. But what about a list of independent clauses following a declarative sentence? Consider the following:

Autumn is an excellent time to enjoy the outdoors. The weather is warm, campsites are abundant, and insects are scarce.

Is it acceptable to let the second sentence above stand alone as such? Or must it always be joined to the first sentence with a semicolon? Other alternatives would be to append "...for several reasons" to the first sentence, or prepend "The reasons for this are that..." to the second sentence.

EDIT: The original version of this question incorrectly identified certain clauses as "adjective phrases".

As EdwinAshworth pointed out, I am claiming that the first example above is not a sentence because it does not have a complete subject and a complete predicate.

  • The example of a list of adjective phrases following a declarative sentence does not actually contain a list of adjective phrases. This question is either poorly worded or based on a factual error and will lead to confusion in answers. Voting to close "unclear". – MetaEd Feb 16 '14 at 1:53
  • @MετάEd Is editing an option in this case? Or perhaps simply removing all occurrences of "adjective phrase" is not enough to make this a worthwhile contribution to english.se? I am removing "adjective phrases" from title and body, and consulting a grammar reference before proceeding with further edits. – higgy Feb 16 '14 at 2:24
  • What's a sentence? Is it any meaningful utterance? Is it any portion of a written utterance lying between two periods? Is it any proposition comprising a subject and a predicate and acceptable as a unit of discourse in Standard English (whatever that is)? – StoneyB Feb 16 '14 at 3:26
  • @StoneyB My intention was that the second edit would provide a baseline definition for a "(simple) sentence" in the context of this question. Should I include my motivation for asking the question in the post? That would move the context from general to specific. The actual sentence I am pondering (not shown) would appear in a disseration, and is highly technical in tone. – higgy Feb 16 '14 at 3:45
  • "Dissertation" pretty much says everything that needs saying :) ... I think bib's answer is what you want. – StoneyB Feb 16 '14 at 3:55
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The second sentence is not just a list of phrases. It is a list of clauses. Each of the clauses are independent and could stand alone as a sentence.

The weather is warm.

Campsites are abundant.

And insects are scarce.

The series of clauses could be joined to the first sentence with a semicolon, but it is not necessary. Each clause could stand alone, or they could be joined as a series in a sentence, as they are in the example.

If they were phrases that were not independent clauses, a colon (not a semicolon) might be more appropriate if you restructured the sentence.

Autumn is an excellent time to enjoy the outdoor charms: warm weather, abundant campsites, and scarce insects.

  • There were three types of fruit in the bowl. Apples, oranges, and bananas. The second 'whatsit' here is, as you say, not a sentence. It would rarely be called 'ungrammatical' though nowadays: it is a sentence substitute. Over-use is poor style, but judicious use is far from 'unacceptable'. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 16 '14 at 1:17
  • @EdwinAshworth If sentences means complete thoughts, the whatsit is. As we (like us?), sentences are evolving. – bib Feb 16 '14 at 1:30
  • Not necessarily. The complete thought might be 'Apples, oranges, and bananas were sadly not among them.' Many people still consider that 'Every sentence has two main parts: a complete subject and a complete predicate.' – Edwin Ashworth Feb 16 '14 at 1:39
  • @EdwinAshworth Context. Context. Context. In your example, most readers would infer [They were] ... and get a complete thought out of it. We surely could envision a wide range of contradictory possibilities, but that is not what most communication is about. – bib Feb 16 '14 at 2:14
  • @bib Edited title and body to fix incorrect use of "phrase". Also, I am accepting this answer (that is, when I am permitted to do so as a new contributor). – higgy Feb 16 '14 at 2:30

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