A weekly grammar tip created by Student Success Center Peer Writing Tutors.
University of Houston-Victoria
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|Varying Sentence Openings, Part II
by Kelli Trungale
In the first part of this discussion, the following
tools for opening sentences were provided: Prepositional phrases, adverbs,
conjunctive adverbs, and appositives. However, there are a few more
strategies that writers can employ to begin their sentences. These
strategies are discussed below.
An absolute phrase is one that introduces a detail or idea related to the sentence rather than to any specific part of it.
Example: The atmosphere being quite unsettled, she stepped onto the balcony to watch the storm roll in.
The italicized phrase in the example above is an absolute phrase. It is not a complete sentence itself, but it contains a noun (atmosphere) and a participle (being quite unsettled), and it adds some drama to an otherwise ordinary sentence.
A dependent clause, also known as a subordinate clause, is one that contains a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. Such clauses usually begin with subordinating conjunctions like because, until, while, if, although, and many others.
Example: Because I wanted to make a good impression on his parents, I cooked an elegant four-course meal.
Example: If Jana wanted to go to the movies with Adam, she should have told him so.
The dependent clauses in the demonstrations above
answer questions regarding reason and condition, respectively. Other
dependent clauses answer questions about time (before, until) or
A participial phrase that is used to open a sentence usually begins with a verb that ends in –ing. Take a look at the following example:
Example: Glancing furtively at the teacher, Sally removed the candy from her coat pocket and proceeded to eat it quietly.
The participial phrase used in the sentence above begins with glancing and modifies the subject of the sentence, Sally.
Definitions adapted from the Harbrace College Handbook, 13th Edition and Dictionary.com
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Kelli Trungale
Along with our website, we recommend the following site: 11 Rules of Writing. As this page’s title implies, several important guidelines for effective writing are provided. Additionally, visitors can review a glossary of writing terms, and they can also check out a list of links for other helpful Websites related to writing.
|Test Your Knowledge
by Kelli Trungale
Test your understanding by rewriting the beginnings of each of the following sentences using the strategy indicated in parentheses. You may have to create new information to complete the task.
1. I ended up visiting the State Fair of Texas this weekend. (Dependent clause)
2. Mike set aside his homework and decided to relax for a few minutes. (Absolute phrase)
3. The pelicans flew over us as we walked down the beach. (Participial phrase)
4. The young boy picked his bicycle up and limped toward his house. (Participial phrase)
5. She never realized how high gas prices could actually climb. (Dependent clause)
6. Marlee humorously entertained the large crowd at the karaoke bar. (Absolute phrase)
1. Although I really should have finished my homework, I ended up visiting the State Fair of Texas this weekend.
2. Midnight swiftly approaching, Mike set aside his homework and decided to relax for a few minutes.
3. Gliding gracefully on the sea breeze, the pelicans flew over us as we walked down the beach.
4. Holding back what he considered to be wimpy tears, the young boy picked his bicycle up and limped toward his house.
5. Until Summer paid thirty dollars for a fill-up, she never realized how high gas prices could actually climb.
6. Her voice creaking with awkward shifts, Marlee humorously entertained the large crowd at the karaoke bar. (Absolute phrase)
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