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ELC Boston Grammar Lesson: Complex Sentences February 26th, 2014

Complex Sentences

Tackling the English Language can be hard! One of the things many students struggle with is writing in English. Communicating and doing grammar exercises are great ways to rapidly improve your understanding of English, but the best way to really develop your English proficiency is to expand your writing abilities.

Many students will use the simple Subject + Verb structure to create their sentences. Here is an example:

Mary threw the ball. Billy caught the ball

Mary is the subject, threw is the verb. In the second sentence, Billy is the subject, caught is the verb.

One way to combine these sentences is to use the word “and”. With two simple sentences, this is the easiest way to combine and create more complex sentences. A new sentence could be:

Mary threw the ball and Billy caught it.

Of course, not all sentences are as simple and easily connected as those two. Additionally, there may be multiple sentences that you need to connect. Here is an example of how to connect multiple ideas from several sentences into one. Take a look at these sentences:

The time was yesterday.

It was afternoon.

There was a storm.

The storm was strong.

The movement of the storm was quick.

The storm moved towards the coast.

The coast was in North Carolina.

The first thing you may want to do is locate the key nouns and adjectives in the sentences. This will help you to identify which words can be eliminated and which words ought to be kept. The words that are important in the sentences have been bolded.

The time was yesterday

It was afternoon

There was a storm

The storm was strong

The movement of the storm was quick

The storm moved towards the coast.

The coast was in North Carolina.

Next, you want to identify which words can be combined. Are there adjectives that are modifying key nouns in the sentences? Are their obvious noun phrases that can be created? Be sure to note if word forms need to be changed to correctly fit into the sentences. In these sentences:

Yesterday + afternoon can be combined to create a time clause to start the sentence.

Strong + storm are key words and can be combined because strong modifies the noun storm.

Movement + quick can be combined, but the forms of these words need to be changed so that they fit into the sentence. Remember, when modifying a verb, an adverb rather than an adjective should be used. This phrase should say ‘moved quickly’.

Towards the coast + of + North Carolina can be combined to create a preposition of place to finish off the sentence.

Your new sentence should read:

Yesterday afternoon, a strong storm moved quickly toward the coast of North Carolina.

Note how those 7 sentences were easily combined into one complex sentence. Some other tips for combining sentences to make complex sentences are:

Use coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, yet, for, and so) to connect two sets of ideas.

Use subordinating conjunctions such as after, while, since, and because to connect related ideas.

Use clauses with relative pronouns such as who, which, that, and whose, to describe or define a noun or noun phrase.

Use pronouns to refer to previously mentioned information.

Use possessive adjectives and pronouns such as my, her, his, ours, and theirs. These words can make your writing flow more smoothly.