Sentence Combining

Sentence Combining

Sentence Combining

Learning Objectives

In this workshop, you will focus on the following objective:
  • Understanding how to combine sentences.
Literature Connection 

In this story opener, Jhumpa Lahiri combines several ideas into one sentence. 
“In the autumn of 1971 a man used to come to our house, bearing confections in his pocket and hopes of ascertaining the life or death of his family”

—Jhumpa Lahiri, “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine”

Lahiri might have chosen to open her story by not combining ideas and by using short sentences like these: This happened in the autumn of 1971. A man used to come to our house. He had confections in his pocket. He also had hopes of ascertaining the life or death of his family.

To write effectively, you must make similar choices about sentence length and structure. Combining short sentences into longer ones helps you develop your own writing style.


  • Solution 1
    Use a prepositional phrase, a group of words that begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or a pronoun.

    : Mr. Pirzada arrived every evening. He always brought a bag of sweets.
    Combined with a prepositional phrase: Mr. Pirzada arrived every evening with a bag of sweets.

  • Solution 2
    Use an appositive, a noun or pronoun placed next to another noun or pronoun to give additional information about it. An appositive phrase is an appositive plus any words that modify it.

    : East Pakistan was Mr. Pirzada’s home. It is now Bangladesh.
    Combined with an appositive phrase: East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, was Mr. Pirzada’s home.

  • Solution 3
    Use a participial phrase. A participle is a verb form, often ending in –ing or –ed, that functions as an adjective. A participial phrase— which includes a participle and other words that add to it—also functions as an adjective. In the sentence Worried about his family, Mr. Pirzada  buried his face in his hands, for example, worried is the participle and worried about his family is the phrase. They both describe Mr. Pirzada.

    : The reporter described the war. He was dripping with sweat.
    Combined with a participial phrase: Dripping with sweat, the reporter described the war.

  • Solution 4
    Use a coordinating conjunction to join words or groups of words with equal grammatical weight in a sentence. Coordinating conjunctions include words such as and, but, or, so, nor, for, and yet.

    : Mr. Pirzada returned home. He wrote to say his family was safe. Lilia did not feel like celebrating.
    Combined with coordinating conjunctions: Mr. Pirzada returned home and wrote to say his family was safe, but Lilia did not feel like celebrating.

  • Solution 5
    Use a subordinating conjunction to join two clauses, or ideas, in such a way as to make one dependent upon the other. Subordinating conjunctions include words such as after, although, as, because, if, since, and when.

    : Mr. Pirzada couldn’t use the knife. His hands were shaking.
    Combined with a subordinating conjunction: Mr. Pirzada couldn’t use the knife because his hands were shaking.

  • Solution 6
    Use an adjective clause, a group of words with a subject and a predicate that modify a noun or a pronoun. Adjective clauses often begin with who, whom, whose, that, and which.

    Separate: Mr. Pirzada visited most nights. He worked at the university.
    Combined with an adjective clause: Mr. Pirzada, who worked at the university, visited most nights.

Combining Sentences Quiz 1

Combining Sentences Quiz 2

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