Test Your Sentence Expanding Skills

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish (HarperCollins, 2011).

Sentence expanding is the process of adding one or more words, phrases, or clauses to the main clause (or independent clause).

Sentence-expanding exercises are often used in conjunction with sentence-combining and sentence imitation exercises. Together these activities may serve as a supplement or an alternative to more traditional methods of grammar instruction.

The primary purpose of using sentence-expanding exercises in the composition is to heighten students' awareness of the variety of sentence structures available to them.

Sentence Expanding Exercises

See Examples and Observations below.

Examples and Exercises

  • Sentence-Murdering and Sentence-Expanding
    "In a sentence-murdering activity, I butcher a selected sentence, usually turning it into a series of run-ons and comma splices, common errors beginning writers often make. In sentence-expanding, I give students a phrase from the selected sentence for them to expand into as long a sentence as possible without using correlative conjunctions or committing any syntactical errors. Copying well-written sentences daily give students a tacit knowledge of how to write complex sentences without learning technical grammatical descriptions."
  • Expanding Texts
    "Write a single simple verb in the center of the board. Invite students to add one, two or three words to it. For example, if the word was 'go,' they might suggest 'I go,' or 'Go to bed!' They go on suggesting additions of a maximum of three consecutive words each time, making a longer and longer text, until you, or they, have had enough."
  • Stanley Fish's Sentence-Expanding Exercise
    "You start small, with three-word sentences, and after you’ve advanced to the point where you can rattle off their structure on demand, you go on to the next step and another exercise. Take a little sentence ('Bob collects coins' or 'John hit the ball'), whose ensemble of relationships you are now able to explain in your sleep, and expand it, first into a sentence of fifteen words and then into a sentence of thirty words, and finally, into a sentence of one-hundred words . . .. And then--here comes the hard part again--tag every added component with an account of how it functions to extend and maintain the set of relationships that holds the sentence, however mammoth or unwieldy it becomes, together.


Sally E. Burkhardt, Using the Brain to Spell: Effective Strategies for All Levels. Rowman & Littlefield, 2011

Dictation: New Methods, New Possibilities, by Paul Davis and Mario Rinvolucri Cambridge University Press, 1988

Penny Ur and Andrew Wright, Five-Minute Activities: A Resource Book of Short Activities. Cambridge University Press, 1992

Stanley Fish, How to Write a Sentence. HarperCollins, 2011