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Lesson 2.5 Movable Modifiers and Sentence Combining

downloadable worksheet


The modifiers discussed in Lesson 2.4 allow us to add non-essential but important information to a sentence. They also give us with a way to combine clauses and make our writing more interesting. Consider the two independent clauses below:


            Bo talked quietly to his kitten. He didn’t want to scare it.


Or we can use one of the movable modifiers to combine the two independent clauses into one:


Bo talked quietly to his kitten because he didn’t want to scare it.

Because he didn’t want to scare it, Bo talked quietly to his kitten.


Here are some other examples:


            Sue tapped Lou. Lou jumped.


Sue tapped Lou and Lou jumped.  – combining with and (See also Lesson 5.3)


            When Sue tapped Lou, Lou jumped. – combining with a clausal modifier


Movable modifiers therefore provide ways to vary clause structure and sentence style. We can combine these three sentences


            Sue tapped Lou very lightly on her way to her seat.

            Sue wanted Lou to know she wasn’t mad at him.

            Lou knew that Sue wasn’t mad.


in various ways. Here’s one way:


On her way to her seat, Sue tapped Lou, very lightly, because she wanted him to know she wasn’t mad at him, even though Lou probably knew that.


We usually use commas to set off movable modifiers. And you can usually hear the “comma intonation” when you say the sentence aloud. They are marked by a downward intonation and sometimes a slight pause.


We see movable modifiers in written texts quite frequently, and it may well be the case that they are much more of a feature of written language than of spoken language.


Combine the following short sentences into a single longer, more complex one, which maintains essentially the same meaning.


            The cat chased the rat. The rat was probably scared.

            I stood on the deck. It was dusk. I saw the sunset. The sunset was beautiful.

            My sister doesn’t like eggs. She eats eggs anyway. They have protein.



key words: parts of speech, introductory elements, commas, punctuation, modifiers, adverbs


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1i Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.3c Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion). 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.3a Expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style. 


Here is this lesson as a pdf.

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