mask

Complex Sentence Drills with Sentence Combining

There is no such thing as good writing. There is only good rewriting. This review lesson builds on that approach with some good old fashioned drills that help English students learn and relearn complex sentences.

Introduction

This is a follow up writing activity that provides students with extra practice as they strive to perfect the construction of complex sentences. It also shows students how to use a particle clause (verb + ing) in order to avoid mentioning the same subject two times in a single sentence.

This lesson builds on a previous lesson which provided an introduction to complex sentences. Those activities can be found in this English writing lesson

Part 1: Sentence Combining

This lesson reviews complex sentence construction with a sentence combing task. Take two sentences and put them together with a connecting word. In the end, you have one complex sentence. For example:

The teacher said there will be a quiz next week. The class whined and complained.

After the teacher said there will be a quiz next week, the class whined and complained.

Writing Practice #1

Combine 2 sentences to make 1 complex sentence. Use one of these connecting words for each question.

  • After, although, because, before, if, when, while
  1. The hair dryer was not working. I returned it to the store for a refund.
  2. I checked my boots and skis. Then I jumped on the ski lift.
  3. I washed my clothes. They still look dirty.
  4. I walked into the room. Everybody stopped talking.
  5. You can watch TV. First, you have to finish your homework.
  6. I was driving to Toronto. My car ran out of gas.
  7. She got a credit card. She bought a new pair of running shoes and an iPhone.

Get the answers (plus the questions) on this handy pdf: learn English writing, complex sentences.

Part 2: Making a Better Complex Sentence

Here is one way to write a better complex sentence. The result will be a stylish sentence because of its stingy use of words.

Look at these complex sentences. What’s wrong with them?

  • When you write the first draft, you shouldn’t worry about mistakes.
  • Before I jumped on the ski lift, I checked my boots and skis.
  • After she got a credit card, she bought a pair of running shoes and a pair of purple Beats headphones.

Answer

Grammatically, nothing is wrong. But the style is not good. In each sentence, there is one subject, and that word is repeated two times. Those repeated pronouns (I, you, she) are not necessary.

We can make these sentences better by making two changes:

  • Change the first verb to an ING (present continuous verb)
  • Remove the first subject.

Let’s look at the changed sentences.

When writing the first draft, you shouldn’t worry about mistakes.

Before jumping on the ski lift, I checked my boots and skis.

After getting a credit card, she bought a pair of running shoes and a pair of purple Beats headphones.

Key Points

  1. This sentence change only works when the same subject is in both parts of the sentence.
  2. This sentence pattern usually works well with 3 connecting words: after, while, before.

Some Bad Examples

Here is an example of a bad change.

  • John lost his key. Mary went to Top Mart.
  • After losing his key, Mary went to Top mart.

Why is this sentence confusing? Is Mary a man?

Is this sentence correct and clear?

  • After losing a key, Mary went to Top mart.

Did Mary lose a key? No, it was John.

 

Writing Practice #2

Combine the sentences. Write a complex sentence that mentions only one subject.

  • Add a connecting word: after, while, or before.
  • Use the present continuous verb form in the first clause.
  • Put the subject in the second clause.

 

  1. John and Mary said goodbye at the airport. They started to cry.
  2. Ji-sung played soccer on Saturday. He hurt his ankle.
  3. She checked her wallet. Then she drove to the gas station.
  4. The teacher walked into class. The teacher looked at the clock and left.
  5. You can watch TV. First, you have to finish your homework.
  6. I was driving to Toronto. My car ran out of gas.
  7. Mr. Kim sold his Sonata. He canceled his car insurance.
  8. She was preparing a delicious chicken soup. She cut her finger.

 

Get the answers (plus the questions) on this handy pdf: learn English writing, complex sentences.

 

 



Leave a Comment

IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)

What is 12 + 4 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is: