1. Education
Richard Nordquist

Language Legos: Practice in Building, Combining, and Revising Sentences (Part One)

By November 28, 2012

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Welcome to the first installment of a monthly series on sentence combining--an opportunity to tinker with words, toy with sentence structures, and reassemble paragraphs. If you choose to play along, you'll find that the exercises become progressively more challenging.

The "sample answers" at the end are just that--examples of satisfactory combinations. You, of course, can do better.

  1. Arranging Adjectives
    In the following sentence, the three adjectives in italics follow the noun they modify.
    Mosquito larva, tiny, white, and eyeless, swam in puddles by the edge of the bridge.
    Write two other versions of this sentence. In one, move the three adjectives to the beginning of the sentence--that is, in front of the noun they modify. In the other version, move just one adjective to the beginning and leave the other two after the noun.

  2. Arranging Adverbs
    Combine the three short sentences below in three different ways. First, place the italicized adverb at the very beginning of your new sentence. Next, place the adverb directly in front of the verb. Finally, place the adverb at the end of the sentence.
    The man pulled out his wallet.
    He did this slowly.
    The man was old.

  3. Arranging Prepositional Phrases
    Break up the long string of prepositional phrases in this sentence by shifting the phrases in italics to the beginning of the sentence.
    Addiction to opiates frequently developed from the abuse of alcohol in the United States during the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth.

  4. Eliminating Unnecessary Modifiers
    Make this sentence more concise and effective by replacing the simple modifiers with more specific nouns and verbs.
    The little child walked quietly on the tips of his toes past the very young dog.

  5. Combining Sentences With Modifiers
    Combine these five short sentences into one clear sentence, arranging the modifiers effectively.
    The line of the forest is drawn up and down the coast.
    The line of the forest is drawn sharp.
    The line of the forest is drawn clean.
    The line of the forest is drawn on the edge of a seascape.
    It is a seascape of surf and sky and rocks.

  6. Combining More Sentences With Modifiers
    Combine these seven short sentences into one clear sentence, arranging the modifiers effectively.
    Her eyes were narrowed against the sun.
    And her lips were still sulky.
    Her lips were sulky like a child's.
    Her eyes were dark blue.
    Her lips were full.
    Her lips were pink.
    Her lips were slightly sulky.

  7. Breaking Up Long Sentences
    Make this sentence easier to follow by dividing it into two sentences.
    On a rickety stool in one corner of the crowded pub, the folk singer sits playing lonesome songs on his battered old guitar about warm beer, cold women, and long nights on the road.

Sample Answers:

  1. (a) Tiny, white, eyeless mosquito larva swam in puddles by the edge of the bridge.
    (b) Tiny mosquito larva, white and eyeless, swam in puddles by the edge of the bridge.

  2. (a) Slowly, the old man pulled out his wallet.
    (b) The old man slowly pulled out his wallet.
    (c) The old man pulled out his wallet slowly.

  3. In the United States during the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth, addiction to opiates frequently developed from the abuse of alcohol.

  4. The toddler tiptoed past the puppy.

  5. Up and down the coast, the line of the forest is drawn sharp and clean on the edge of a seascape of surf and sky and rocks.

  6. Her dark-blue eyes were narrowed against the sun, and her full, pink lips were still slightly sulky, like a child's.
    (James Baldwin, "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon")

  7. On a rickety stool in one corner of the crowded pub, the folk singer sits hunched over his battered old guitar. He plays lonesome songs about warm beer, cold women, and long nights on the road.

Stop back on December 28 for additional practice in building, combining, and revising sentences. Or if you can't wait, try your hand at the exercises below.


Building, Combining, and Revising With Adjectives, Adverbs, and Prepositional Phrases:

  • Practice in Adding Adjectives and Adverbs to the Basic Sentence Unit
  • Sentence Building with Prepositional Phrases
  • Expanding Sentences With Prepositional Phrases
  • Review Exercise: Revising Sentences with Basic Modifiers
  • Comments

    January 28, 2013 at 9:23 am
    (1) antique books says:

    Whats up very cool website!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Wonderful .
    . I will bookmark your site and take the feeds also? I’m satisfied to seek out numerous helpful info here in the put up, we want work out extra strategies on this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

    February 5, 2013 at 6:55 pm
    (2) Sherri Huggins says:

    I adore the playfulness of your work. I read so much that is dreadful that playing with the words, phrases, and clauses used to challenge me aids in regaining perspective. I originally wanted to find electronic sources for my students to access and have actually gotten more out of it than any of them. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    February 6, 2013 at 5:47 am
    (3) grammar says:

    Thank you for your kind note, Sherri. Let’s keep playing!

    Richard

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