Combining Sentences
A web-based skill lesson
developed by Diana Dell, Ed.S.

If you continually use short sentences in your writing, your paragraphs will sound very choppy.  Read this paragraph and notice how it sounds.

    It was my birthday.  I ask for a bike.  My parents bought me a red bike.  It had white strips on the fenders. I like to ride my bike everywhere.  I like to ride on smooth payment best.  I am not allowed to ride on the sidewalk.  People walk on the side walk. If I have time.  I ride on the bike trail in the park.

To make your writing more interesting, you can combine the short sentences to make longer sentences.  The longer sentences can be either compound or complex.  Read the revised paragraph below.  Notice how the paragraph flows much better with longer sentences.

        It was my birthday, so I ask for a bike.  My parents bought me a red bike, and it had white strips on the fenders.  I like to ride my bike everywhere, but I like to ride on smooth payment best.  I am not allowed to ride on the sidewalk because people walk on the sidewalk.  Whenever  I have time,  I ride on the bike trail in the park.

Did you notice the kind of changes that were made in the second paragraph?  Conjunctions and commas were used to connect the sentences.

What are conjunctions? The most common conjunctions used in compound sentences are:

and, as, but, or, so

When you make a compound sentence you are joining two or more simple sentences together with a conjunction and a comma.  If you took the conjunction away, the sentences would be complete and they would still make sense.  Look at this example:

Sentence 1: I like to ride my bike everywhere
Sentence 2: I like to ride on smooth payment best
Compound sentence:  I like to ride my bike everywhere, but I like to ride on smooth payment best.

Complex sentences use conjunctions and sometimes commas also.  However, complex sentences don't just divide into neat, complete, simple sentences if you take out the conjunctions. In complex sentences the conjunction is used to join together clauses.

These conjunction are used most often in complex sentences:

after, although, because, before, until, since, when, whenever, while

What is a clause? A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. Sometimes clauses are complete short sentences, but in a complex sentence at least one of them will depend on the conjunction for its meaning.  This means if you take the conjunction away, the sentence won't divide into complete units that make sense by themselves. Look at these examples:

Clause 1:  I am not allowed to ride on the sidewalk
Clause 2: People walk on the sidewalk
Complex sentence:  I am not allowed to ride on the sidewalk because people walk on the sidewalk.

 

Clause 1: If I have time
Clause 2: I ride on the bike trail in the park
Complex sentence:  Whenever  I have time,  I ride on the bike trail in the park.

Revise these paragraphs using compound and complex sentences.
(Source: http://www.unt.edu/writing_center/wssentencecombining.htm)

Paragraph 1:  It was a dark and stormy night.  The wind was high.  The trees waved and crashed against the barn.  I looked around me and saw that I wasnít alone.  A man stood behind me.  He was tall.  He was mean.  He had a knife.  It was shining in the moonlight.  It was long and slender.  He reached back. He stabbed with it.  I jumped out of the way.  I ran away.

Paragraph 2:  Tom prefers baseball to basketball.  Baseball seems more interesting to Tom.  Tom feels baseball is a gentlemanís sport. Baseball is more structured than basketball.  Baseball requires athletes to use more skill than aggression when playing.  Tom respects baseball players the most because of this.

Here are more resources on combining sentences:

http://webster.commnet.edu/grammar/combining_skills.htm
http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/writing-lab/sentence_combining_b.html
http://rhet.csustan.edu/3009/sentcomb.htm

http://pigseye.kennesaw.edu/~slamos/

Practice combining sentences with these activities:

Is this a Compound Sentence?
Making Compound Sentences

Using Compound Sentences

Three Quizzes- Beat them all!