Relative Clause Fragment

A relative clause fragment arises when this type of clause is disconnected from the other clause that is needed in the sentence. 

To make sense, a sentence must express a complete thought. A relative clause written by itself does not do this. 

Relative Clause Fragments:

who is a policeman

which is the best present I've ever had

where I bought the medicine my sister needed

that helped me understand how to speak French

These are all dependent clauses

A clause is a group of words with a subject and verb. Like any complex sentence, a sentence with a relative clause is made up of at least two clauses, a dependent clause and an independent clause.

This is a definition of 'dependent' from the Cambridge Online Dictionary:

"needing the support of something or someone in order to continue existing or operating"

An independent clause can be used alone. However, a dependent clause needs the support of an independent clause in order to exist, or to make sense.

So now let's add some independent clauses to those relative clause fragments we looked at earlier on to ensure they express a complete thought.

Correctly Written Relative Clause Sentences:

  • Independent Clause 
  • Dependent Clause

My neighbour
who is a policeman, often helps me out

My bother brought me a bike, which is the best present I've ever had

I went to the chemist where I bought the medicine my sister needed

This is the book that helped me understand how to speak French

How do I know I've not written a fragment?

As every clause has a subject and verb and you are using two clauses (an independent and dependent clause) check that you have two subject verb combinations.

My neighbour (subject) often helps (verb) me out

who (subject) is (verb) a policeman


I (subject) went (verb) to the chemist 

where I (subject) bought (verb) the medicine my sister needed

Both the independent and dependent clause have a subject and verb so the sentences look correct. 

Note that the relative pronoun (who, which, that etc) is not always the subject of the sentence, as in the second example, but that will be dealt with further in another lesson. 

More on Relative Clauses:

Join Us and get Free Grammar Tips into your Inbox!

New! Comments

Any questions or comments about the grammar discussed on this page?

Post your comment here.