A sentence expresses a complete thought. If the thought is interrupted by a period before it is completed, you have an incomplete sentence.
Actually, these two sentences should be one. Part 2 can stand alone as a sentence. It expresses a complete thought. But part 1 is a fragment. We don't know what happened after the game, and we don't even know who went to the game. The sentence doesn't express a complete thought.
- After going to the basketball game.
- Ralph went to Estelle's house.
The two parts can be joined together in several ways to make them into one sentence. Place a comma instead of a period after the word "game," and you have a correct sentence. Or, reverse the order of the two parts and you have:
Ralph went to Estelle's house after the basketball game.
Part 1 is a complete sentence. Part two is incomplete. As with all incomplete sentences, part 2 must be taken out altogether, or reworded to be made into a complete sentence by itself, or added to the other sentence so the two become one.
- Estelle stayed home.
- Because she didn't have the money to go to the game.
If we take it out, we don't know the reason for Estelle's staying home.
If we make it a complete sentence by itself - She didn't have the money to go to the game - we end up with two short sentences. That is perfectly o.k., and actually, using the two short sentences together gives a more dramatic tone to the piece.
Estelle stayed home. She didn't have the money to go to the game.
If we join the two parts, we have a less dramatic sentence, but one that explains clearly by giving cause and effect close together:
Estelle stayed home because she didn't have the money to go to the game.
Or, as we did earlier, we can reverse the order of the two parts and get:
Because she didn't have the money to go to the game, Estelle stayed home.
In checking your own work for incomplete sentences, read your sentences aloud, one at a time, to be sure each one expresses a complete thought. Can each one stand-alone and make sense to a listener other than yourself?
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