Free English Lessons

How to Make Complex Sentences – Video

by Gina Mares on December 12, 2019 , Comments Off on How to Make Complex Sentences – Video

In this lesson, you can learn how to make complex sentences of all types in English.

Making complex sentences will help improve your English writing. By using a variety of complex sentence forms, your writing will become more versatile and elegant.

Using a range of complex sentences in your writing is also important if you’re preparing for an English writing exam like IELTS, TOEFL, or FCE.

QUIZ: How to Build Complex Sentences

Now, test your knowledge of what you learned in the lesson by trying this quiz. The first nine questions ask you to identify the types of sentences covered in the lesson. For questions 10-20, write one or two words to complete the complex sentences.

You can get help with some questions if you press ‘Hint’. You will get your score at the end, when you can click on ‘View Questions’ to see all the correct answers.

Before we start, we want to tell you about this lesson, who it’s for, what’s in it and what isn’t. This lesson will focus on grammar structures for forming complex sentences without using conjunctions. If you want to learn about using conjunctions to form complex sentences, you can watch our video about linking words for IELTS writing.

Also, using these structures requires that you have at least an intermediate knowledge of English grammar. This lesson assumes that you know how to form different verb forms and use relative clauses, among other things. This lesson is technical and contains a lot of information. You might need to watch it in sections, and repeat sections several times.

Finally, a warning! Using complex sentences can enhance your writing, but only if you have complex, coherent ideas behind them. If your ideas are basic, or incoherent, using what you think are ‘advanced’ grammar structures won’t help.

OK, let’s start. Here’s how this lesson will work. First, look at four sentences:

  • Tulip mania is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble.
  • Tulips started to be cultivated in Holland around 1593.
  • Tulip prices collapsed dramatically in 1637.
  • At the peak of tulip mania in 1636-7, a single tulip bulb could cost ten times an average worker’s salary.

Red tulips

Pause the video, read the sentences, and look up any words which you don’t know. If you want to read more about tulip mania, there’s a link to a Wikipedia article about tulip mania here.

Ready? These sentences are all grammatically simple, meaning that they each have one main verb.

Now, you’ll see four different grammatical tools you can use to combine and add to these sentences to make them richer and more complex.

1. Using -ing Participle Clauses

Do you know what -ing participle clauses are, and how you can use them? If not, don’t worry; look at an example based on our first sentence:

  • Being the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble, tulip mania has been studied and discussed extensively.

Here, you use a participle clause to connect two ideas.

  1. Tulip mania is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble.
  2. Tulip mania has been studied and discussed extensively.

You can use an -ing participle clause to connect two ideas which happen at the same time, or to show cause and effect. In this case, you could express the same idea using ‘because’, like this:

  • Because tulip mania is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble, it has been studied and discussed extensively.

The -ing participle clause does not have a subject. In a sentence like this with two clauses, the -ing clause can only refer to the subject in the second clause. You can’t have two subjects. When writing, make sure your sentence has a clear subject. Don’t write something like this.

  • Being the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble, it has been studied and discussed extensively.

Here, it isn’t clear what ‘it’ refers to. Let’s practise! Here are two ideas. Can you connect them using an -ing participle clause?

  1. Tulip mania is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble.
  2. The term ‘tulip mania’ is sometimes used to refer to similar situations, such as the Bitcoin bubble of 2017.

Pause the video and think about your answer. Want a hint? Your answer should be quite similar to the example you saw before. Ready? Here’s the answer.

  • Being the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble, the term ‘tulip mania’ is sometimes used to refer to similar situations, such as the Bitcoin bubble of 2017.

There’s one more way to use -ing clauses: you can use a perfect -ing form, with ‘having’ plus a past participle, to show that one thing happened before another. For example:

  • Having increased to the point that a single tulip bulb could cost ten times an average worker’s salary, tulip prices collapsed dramatically in 1637.

So, quick review: you can use -ing participle clauses to do three things. Do you remember them? One: use them to show that two actions happened at the same time. Two: use them to show cause and effect. Three: use them—with ‘having’ plus a past participle—to show that one thing happened after another. Remember that you can always review a section if you need more time to work on it. Let’s move on to our next point.

2. Using -ed Participle Clauses

Puzzle pieces

There are two kinds of participle clauses: -ing clauses and -ed clauses. Look at an example of two ideas linked with an -ed participle clause:

  • Introduced to northern Europe in the mid-16th century, tulips started to be cultivated in Holland around 1593.

This links two ideas.

  1. Tulips were introduced to Europe in the mid-16th century.
  2. Tulips started to be cultivated in Holland around 1593.

You can use -ed participle clauses when you have two clauses with the same subject, and one of the clauses has a passive verb. Like -ing clauses, -ed participle clauses do not have a subject in the participle clause. Let’s look at another example. This time, you can try to make the complex sentence:

  1. Tulips had been cultivated in Holland since 1593.
  2. Tulips increased in popularity and price until 1637, when prices collapsed dramatically.

Can you combine these two sentences with an -ed participle clause? Pause the video if you need time to make your answer. Ready? Here’s the answer.

  • Cultivated in Holland since 1593, tulips increased in popularity and price until 1637, when prices collapsed dramatically.

Because the -ed clause doesn’t have a main verb, the verb tense information—‘had been cultivated’—disappears in the -ed clause. However, no meaning is lost. In these two sections, you’ve seen how to use -ing and -ed participle clauses to link two full, independent clauses. However, there’s another way to use them. Look at an example:

  • Tulips, introduced to Europe in the mid-16th century, started to be cultivated in Holland around 1593.

Can you see how this is different? In this case, you’re using the -ed participle clause not to replace an independent clause, but instead to replace a relative clause. Relative clauses are one of the most powerful ways to add and combine ideas in complex sentences. Let’s look in more detail!

3. Relative Clauses

Relative clauses can do two things. One: you can use a relative clause to add information to a noun or noun phrase. Two: you can use a relative clause with ‘which’ to add information to a sentence or idea. Let’s look at an example of the first case: using a relative clause to add information to a noun.

  • Tulip mania, which occurred in Holland, reached its peak in 1637.

Here, you use a relative clause—‘which occurred in Holland’—to add information to the noun phrase ‘tulip mania’. Relative clauses used like this can only describe the noun they come after. Don’t write something like this:

  • Tulip mania reached its peak in 1637, which occurred in Holland.

If you’re using a relative clause to add information to a noun, the clause must come directly after the noun or noun phrase. You can use multiple relative clauses in the same sentence; for example:

  • Tulip mania, which occurred in Holland, reached its peak in 1637, when prices collapsed dramatically.

Here, you add a second relative clause, with ‘when’, to add more information about the noun ‘1637’. Using multiple relative clauses like this allows you to structure your ideas in different ways. For example, you could also write this:

  • Tulip mania, which reached its peak in 1637, occurred in Holland.

This might be useful if you want to add more information about ‘Holland’ later in the sentence, like this:

  • Tulip mania, which reached its peak in 1637, occurred in Holland, where tulips had been cultivated since 1593.

Let’s practise! Look at two ideas:

  1. Tulip mania reached its peak in 1637.
  2. Tulip mania is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble.

Can you connect these two ideas using a relative clause? There are two possible answers. Pause the video and make your answer. Ready? Here are the two possibilities.

  • Tulip mania, which reached its peak in 1637, is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble.
  • Tulip mania, which is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble, reached its peak in 1637.

Did you get the right answer? Even better, did you get both? For extra challenge, can you add a third idea?

  1. Tulip mania reached its peak in 1637.
  2. Tulip mania is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble.
  3. In 1637, a single tulip bulb could cost ten times an average worker’s salary.

Here’s a hint: ‘1637’ appears twice, and you need to link the two instances. Here’s the best way to do it:

  • Tulip mania, which is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble, reached its peak in 1637, when a single tulip bulb could cost ten times an average worker’s salary.

Let’s look at one more point here. You can also use a relative clause to add information or explanation to a whole idea. Look at an example:

  • Tulip mania is the earliest well-known example of a financial bubble, which means that it has been studied and discussed extensively.

Here, you’re using the relative clause to explain the whole idea of the first clause. You’re not just adding information to one noun phrase. To use relative clauses in this way, you need to do two things.

One: you can only use ‘which’ as the relative pronoun.

Two: your relative clause must add an explanation or an opinion related to the idea before the relative clause. You can’t add factual information or details in this way.

Now, let’s look at one more way to form complex sentences.

4. Cleft Sentences (Focusing Sentences)

To be a good writer, you should make it clear which ideas are more important. In English, ideas which are close to the beginning of the sentence are more important than others. So, if you want to emphasise an idea, you should find a way to move it to the beginning of the sentence. You can do this by using ‘it’, like this:

  • It was in 1637 that tulip mania reached its peak.

Here, you’re focusing on the year, 1637. Often, you use this structure to focus on a factual detail, like a person, time, place and so on. You can also combine this with other structures you’ve seen in this lesson. For example, you could add a relative clause to the end of this sentence, like this.

  • It was in 1637 that tulip mania reached its peak, at which point a single tulip bulb could cost ten times an average worker’s salary.

Look at a sentence.

  • Tulips started to be cultivated in Holland in 1593.

Imagine you want to emphasise the idea of ‘Holland’ or the idea of ‘1593’. Can you write two different sentences, starting with ‘it’, to emphasise these two ideas? Pause the video and do it now. Did you get your answers? Take a look.

  • It was in Holland that tulips started to be cultivated, in 1593.
  • It was in 1593 that tulips started to be cultivated in Holland.

In the first sentence, you’ll probably need to change the structure a little by separating ‘in 1593’ from the main clause using a comma.

Now, you’ve seen several ways to form complex sentence structures in English. What should you do if you want more practice? First, you can use a grammar book or other resources to practise the topics you’ve seen in this lesson. Look for chapters and exercises on -ing participle clauses, -ed participle clauses, relative clauses, and cleft sentences. ‘Cleft sentences’ are also called ‘focusing clauses’ in some books and materials.

Secondly, remember that the ideas in this lesson are not the only way to connect ideas into complex sentences. You should also learn how to use a range of conjunctions and linking phrases to build sentences. Finally, practise writing, and try to use some of these ideas in your writing. Get good quality feedback to make sure that your writing is clear, well-organised and accurate. Our teachers can help you with your writing if you need. You can book a trial lesson here: https://www.oxfordonlineenglish.com/book-first-class

That’s all. Thanks for watching!

Gina MaresHow to Make Complex Sentences – Video