Take this from Nick Cave's song 'Higgs Boson Blues':

She curses the queue at the Zulu. And moves on to Amazonia.

Is there a term for a sentence without a subject, or where the subject is implied from the previous sentence, like

And moves on to Amazonia.

This Quora (https://www.quora.com/In-formal-English-is-it-grammatically-correct-to-use-sentences-without-subjects-as-in-Went-home-late-Ate-biscuits) suggested that imperatives and exclamations often omit the subject, but the above sentence doesn't seem to fit as either of those, as it isn't an direction (like an imperative) or really exclaiming anything.

Is there a term for a sentence that has no subject, or implies the subject from the previous sentence?

  • 3
    Ellipsis applies to any skipped piece that does not suffer from the omission. Your two sentences are really one, broken for theatrics: She curses the queue at the Zulu — and moves on to Amazonia. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 3:19
  • 2
    Of the examples you give, She curses the queue at the Zulu. And moves on to Amazonia is what's called Conjunction Reduction. Went home late, ate biscuits is what's called Conversational Deletion. Those are only two kinds; there are lots more. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 3:34
  • I'll not close-vote, as there is a fairly important point that has perhaps not been covered fully enough before, but this is a misquote as the original lyrics {at SongMeanings} are presented on two lines with the usual punctuation of no periods at the end of most lines (here, any lines) of the stanzas, and capitals at the start of each line (whether the start of an identifiable sentence or not). Your example is still usable. Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 11:25

1 Answer 1


"Sentence fragment", "dependent clause", and "phrase" apply, here. What you have there is improper punctuation of a single sentence.

A "clause" is a section that has subject, verb, and whatever objects are required. A "phrase" is any chunk that holds a distinct meaning as a group. A "sentence fragment" is a clump of words masquerading as a sentence but that can't actually fulfill the requirements. A "dependent clause" requires another clause to function.

Your example's first part can stand alone, but the second part is a "dependent clause" since it 'borrows' the subject of the former to function.

(In this case, the reason the dependent clause appears to be a sentence is that it has been punctuated the way it has. Thus, this isn't a grammatical error but typographical.)

  • It's not (in itself) an error at all according to many commentators. The judicious usage of fragments/crots is seen as a positive feature in some genres. Look up references here; this has been covered on several occasions. Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 19:30
  • Avoidable confusion is an error. The question clearly indicates ambiguity that can be removed by following the classical conventions, and it isn't even a particularly bad example.
    – The Nate
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 6:13
  • No confusion about the meaning of the string arises from the structure of 'She curses the queue at the Zulu. And moves on to Amazonia.' It's as transparent as 'She curses the queue at the Zulu – and moves on to Amazonia.' And it seems extremely presumptuous to claim that there is a typographical error (ie that there has been a slip in some transcription process) without checking the original. In fact, OP is responsible for supplying an inaccurate version here. (I'm sure you're just misusing 'typographical error' for 'punctuation error', of course.) ... Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 11:00
  • Nordquist, at ThoughtCo, gives a reasoned approach to the acceptability of judiciously used sentence fragments in genres with far more exacting demands than pop-song lyrics. He includes examples of their use by authors such as Coetzee, Mencken and Dickens. And an Anglophone who has never used conversational deletion would be unique. Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 11:00

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