A reward and punishment system to help enforce safety equipment use.

The sentence above was kicked back to me as a sentence fragment. I feel it is a sentence. If this is a sentence fragment, can someone please explain why?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs on English Language Learners
    – Chenmunka
    Feb 18 '20 at 18:15
  • 2
    It's not a complete sentence, plain and simple. It might be a legitimate list item, but for that you need context.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 18 '20 at 23:08

My first thought when reading your sentence, was;

"What is?" And the answer should be "X is".

X is a reward and punishment system to help enforce safety equipment use.

A complete sentence has three characteristics:

  1. It begins with a capital letter
  2. The complete sentence must contain at least one main clause.
  3. Each main clause must contain an independent subject and verb and express a complete thought.

Since your sentence doesn't answer the who or what, it lacks the subject. In creative writing you can get away with it, but I'm guessing this isn't the case?

  • Thank you for your response. For context this is in the middle of a paragraph discussing what the outcome of training will be. To follow that guideline I would need to start every sentence (about 10) in the paragraph with either "We will create" or "Supervisors will learn". I feel like that would make the content nearly unreadable. I have never had to use that style of writing. I am at a loss as to why I would be expected to start now.
    – Q428
    Feb 18 '20 at 15:20
  • @Q428 No, that would make the content more readable. You're just not used to writing in English. "We will create ______. Additionally, we will create ______. Furthermore, supervisors will learn ______." There are ways to express what you want to express in full sentences without making the content "unreadable", as you say.
    – user91988
    Feb 18 '20 at 23:05
  • 1
    If every one of 10 items is what supervisors will learn, that is perfect for a bulleted list. "ABC will teach you all the following: bullet 1, bullet 2, ..." Do not repeat ABC, and just start each bullet with some verb. Feb 18 '20 at 23:09
  • When I read OP’s “fragment” I see only a subject and think “What about it?” “A reward system to help enforce safety equipment use is helpful in achieving 100% compliance
    – Jim
    Feb 19 '20 at 14:54
  • @Jim: But if you're going by that semantic notion, both the following sentences express the same idea, but only the second can stand as a sentence on its own; why is that? -- 1) "A reward and punishment system to help enforce safety equipment use." 2) "A reward and punishment system is helpful for enforcing safety equipment use." // I have read it's because of the fact that in English every independent clause must contain a finite verb as its root, but I wish I knew why that is so. Apr 1 '20 at 8:20

Your sentence has to have a subject and a verb. You potentially have a subect, "system", but then there's no verb after it. "help" isn't a verb for it because it's after "to" so is part of a subjunctive clause. If you removed "to help" and put "helps" in its place, then you would have a verb for your noun.


"Please help" is considered a fragment because the sentence does not include a subject. Therefore, most people will ask, "Please help who?" or "Please help with what?"

  • I think the OP was asking about the sentence fragment quoted in the body of the question and not the one in the title. Feb 19 '20 at 21:04
  • The implied subject is You in all imperatives like Come here, Please stop, Help out with a cup of coffee. Feb 20 '20 at 1:14

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