New lesson: Complex sentences

We can't believe we're saying this, but we finally finished the Complex Sentences lesson.

Anyone who makes it through the word groups and sentence structure lessons will have a tactical, functional, powerful toolkit for analysing and editing writing. (Some of the terminology might be non-standard, but you'll have all the conceptual pieces.)

So what do we cover in this lesson?


To begin, we build on a concept from earlier lessons: that sentences represent events based on verb groups.

We remind students that we can connect distinct events to create compound sentences, and then show how we can go further to merge events—creating complex sentences.

Turn the wheel and the plane will bank

Bod heard Scarlett choking back a scream

We then show how even merged events have a hierarchy, with one main event and potentially many supporting events.

Adding detail

Having established some basic concepts, we explore how supporting events can be used to add more detail to a description.

This includes adding related events (with '–ing' and '–ed' verbs):

Dickon came in smiling his nicest wide smile

Giving reasons and conditions (with '–to' verbs):

Lorraine had to skip a bit to catch up

And adding qualifying details (using relative pronouns):

An airlock that we are not going to mess with

Unique meanings

Finally we explore a variety of unique meanings that can be communicated through complex sentences.

Qualifying the unknown:

Whoever has come to help us is doomed

Explaining cause and effect:

He had been sent there for being a nuisance

Describing the world indirectly through reported speech and perception:

Mom made it seem like this move was no big deal

Putting it all together

The checkpoint piece at the end is one sentence from Phillip Pullman's version of The Musicians of Bremen, which manages to pack in much of what we practice in the lesson:

One long sentence about a jerk and his donkey

PLUS thumbnails!

This is a challenging lesson. The core patterns are simple, but the lesson draws on many concepts and terms from other lessons.

We have started making visualisations to make the content more accessible, but we didn't want to wait until they were finished to release the lesson, so you'll find sketches throughout.

Comparing ways to add detail

BONUS LESSON: Four and a Half Types of Sentence

All the lessons in our sentence structure series focus on statements—but statements are only one type of sentence. There are at least 3.5 other types of sentence which bend rules to suit their needs.

So to conclude the series, we have a short lesson that looks at a variety of sentence types, including questions:

Where in this wilderness could they bolt to


Keep indoors



And fragments:

Gray west

You can preview the Complex Sentences and Four and a Half Types of Sentence lessons now.


  • We are DONE!
  • That's not entirely true.
  • Having finally finished the series, we do want to go back and revise and do what we can to make the lessons more accessible, for instance with more visualisations throughout.
  • And we can see there is a need for extra lessons that demonstrate how to use grammatical concepts to analyse to mentor texts. (For example, from the summer program: noticing how often writers use classifiers to create a concrete and specific world.)
  • So we will supplement the grammar lessons we have, but for now we need a break.
  • The next new lesson is most likely going to be about compelling detail because that was the number one issue we saw in the summer program.

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