Take this sentence:

I want the following: butter, sugar, and flour.

The part of the sentence that appears before the colon seems to not contain a noun; I seems to be an object, want seems to be a verb. There seems to be no object. It seems like it is a fragment? It seems all right to not place complete sentences after a colon... So maybe what goes before a colon doesn't have to be a complete sentence either?

  • 1
    I'm really unclear what you're trying to ask here. Your first and fourth paragraphs are unrelated questions, and I can't tell what your second and third paragraphs have to do with anything.
    – cpast
    May 8, 2015 at 23:29

2 Answers 2


A complete sentence does not have to precede a colon.

1 For example:

2 John: he was a real good friend until he stole my girlfriend.

3 Texas: It’s Like a Whole N'other Country.

3 Butter, sugar and flour: this is what I need to buy at the store.

4 Butter, sugar and flour: these are what I need to buy at the store.

5 Instructions: Assemble each light, hang the lights on the tree, plug in the power cord, turn the power switch on.

However, in your example:

I want the following: butter, sugar, and flour.

I want the following is a complete sentence. The subject is I and the verb is want. The direct object is the following.

Note: grammatically it is a complete sentence. Semantically, it may or may not suffice. For example, unless the writer or speaker says what he wants, it comes close to being an incomplete thought, which might wreck the idea that a sentence expresses a complete thought.

But, it could be said in real life, as in

I want the following and the person is going to tell you what he wants, but then the phone rings and he doesn't get a chance.

  • Interesting! I may seem to, somewhat, get these things, in colon punctuation. I didn't think it seemed like a complete sentence! In that hindmost place of that colon, "I want the following:", it didn't seem like it contained a noun, or, "a thing", or, "object", (I may think objects mostly, nouns?). It seems you wrote, "the following" seems a, "direct object" two words, to get a, "direct object". This may seem, maybe, new to me. I may read what these, "direct objects" seem like. It seems, you got me information to two things. ("!")
    – saySay
    May 9, 2015 at 21:14
  • Frankly, I think you might need to learn some basic grammar before worrying about the use of the colon (:). For instance, why do you write the word seems so many times? Also, if you could not identify the subject, verb, and direct object in I want the following, then, again, I suggest you learn some basic grammar.
    – user6951
    May 10, 2015 at 0:07

Yes, a complete sentence (independent clause) must precede a colon. However, what follows a colon need not be an independent clause [source]

In the clause, "I want the following," "I" is the noun or subject, "want" is the verb, and "the following" is the direct object the want is directed at.

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