Teach English Writing Skills: Complex Sentences

Learn to Write Complex Sentences

Writing Skill: sentence fluency


Sometimes students are lost in the English writing class. They need specific language teaching to help them learn, develop and practice writing skills. That’s the purpose of this English writing lesson.

This three-part lesson helps English students learn to write complex sentences. Knowing how to write this kind of sentence helps students in many ways.

They add style. These sentences create style because they tend to be long, so they are a good match with short sentences.

They are pithy. They add lots of information to a story in one single sentence with a few words.

They add clarity. If students make a mistake with this sentence structure, the reader may have a hard time understanding the meaning.


Step 1 Review

What is a complex sentence?

It has three parts: an independent clause, a dependent clauss and a connecting word.

Independent clause: a sentence by itself. Independent means alone or by itself.

Dependent clause: has a verb and a subject, but it is not a complete sentence. It has to be added to an independent clause. Dependent means need another person or thing.

Connecting word: a special word that starts the dependent clause (called subordinating conjunction in grammar books).

Step 2 Examples

Notice the dependent clause can go at the front of the sentence (with a comma) or at the back (with no comma).

Because the children were so tired, we decided to stay home and watch a movie.

If you don’t finish your school work, you can’t watch TV.

Dad cleaned the table while my sister vacuumed the rug.

We can’t go hiking on the mountain unless the rain stops soon.

Step 3 Connecting Words

There are about 30 different connecting words or phrases (subordinating conjunctions). You don’t need to remember all of them for this class. But you should know how to use about 10:

  • after,  although,   as soon as,  because,  before
  • if,  unless,  when,  while,  now that

Step 4 Practice

Make a complex sentence with these prompts by adding a connecting word (from the list) and dependent clause. Review student answers on the board. Click here to download or view these questions and possible answers on the pdf file.

  • unless, when, as soon as, while, after
  1. I usually go to the library …
  2. I will be ready to go ….
  3. I work every day …
  4. My dad always turns on the TV …
  5. The children played in the backyard …

Step 5 More Practice

Finish the sentences by adding an independent clause.

  1. As soon as I started talking, …
  2. Before leaving my house in the morning, …
  3. Although I enjoy travelling, …
  4. If you don’t stop playing Smartphone games in class, …
  5. Now that you have finished school, …

Expansion Activity

This lesson about complex sentences is a good lead into a more complex creative writing assignment. Click here to read about the assignment that asks students to write a creative story about a door.

Teach writing?

Get the ebook Teach Essential Writing Skills. Transform the quality of EFL student writing by focusing on four essential skills. Click here for details about the ebook that should be part of every writing teacher’s resource library.


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Cut your lesson prep time with this colossal collection of ESL resources that stimulate language learning and critical thinking. Simplify your lesson planning because teaching should be a joy, not a chore.toolbox-front-cover-3d-book-8-8

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