What Are Fused Sentences?

Fused sentence
A fused sentence is like a fender-bender caused by one car (or sentence) traveling too close to another. Christof R Schmidt/Getty Images

A fused sentence is a type of run-on sentence in which two independent clauses are run together (or "fused") without an appropriate conjunction or mark of punctuation between them, such as a semicolon or a period. In prescriptive grammar, fused sentences are generally treated as errors. You'll want to avoid their use. 

Identifying Independent Clauses

Independent clauses contain both a subject and a verb. They are distinguished from a compound predicate, which has more than one verb, but all the verbs refer back to the same subject of the sentence. For example, take "We went to the store and bought the stuff for the party." It has a compound predicate. Both verbs (went and bought) were done by we. If the sentence were written with a second subject, such as "We went to the store, and Shelia bought the stuff for the party," then the sentence would have two independent clauses separated by a comma and a coordinating conjunction. Note how each verb has its own subject ( we and Sheila). If you can pick out verbs and find their subjects, you'll be able to repair any fused sentence.

Fixing Fused Sentences

Fortunately, fused sentences can be fixed seamlessly in several different ways: 

  • using a semicolon between the independent clauses 
  • by inserting a comma and a coordinating conjunction such as and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet 
  • by breaking the line into two sentences 
  • using a semicolon plus a conjunctive adverb

If you wanted to fix the sentence, "The barn was very large it smelled of hay and horses," you could put a semicolon between the two clauses to come up with "The barn was very large; it smelled of hay and horses," or it could be fixed with a comma and the word and in the same spot.

In the line "You can only be young once you can be immature always," an easy fix would be to insert a comma and a but, to wit: "You can only be young once, but you can be immature always." 

You can also repair fused sentences by breaking something into two sentences. Take the following: "The boys were playing with their trucks in the mud I watched them from the window in my bedroom." You could put a period after "mud" to break them up. If that fix ends up with the paragraph feeling too choppy because of repetitive sentence structure, inserting a comma and an and there works just as well. 

Another repair is to use a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb between the two clauses, such as therefore or however, such as in this fix: "At 4:30 p.m., I suddenly needed to speak with the secretary; however, I knew she left the office at 4 p.m."

Comparisons

Another type of run-on is one where two independent clauses are joined only by a comma. This is a comma splice and can be fixed in the same ways as a fused sentence. Other run-ons, such as one with strings and strings and strings of clauses run together, can probably be best broken apart into multiple sentences, such as, "We went to the store and bought the stuff for the party, but we should have gone to the pool first to buy the passes, because the frozen treats melted in the grocery bags in the back seat, as we got talking to some friends in the parking lot, and we forgot about them for a bit." This unwieldy example could easily be shortened and cut into two or three cleaner sentences.