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Grammar: Complex Sentences and Conjunctions for ESL Grammar Students

Introduction to Complex Sentences and Conjunctions for ESL Grammar Students

Greetings, language learners! Today, we're going to delve into the world of complex sentences and explore how they can enhance your English language skills. By the end of this lesson, you'll be able to construct sentences that showcase both independent and dependent clauses, making your communication more engaging and diverse.

Understanding Independent and Dependent Clauses

Imagine sentences as building blocks that come together to convey meaning. A complex sentence, just like a well-designed structure, consists of two essential components: an independent clause and a dependent clause. An independent clause is a complete thought, capable of standing alone as a sentence. On the other hand, a dependent clause relies on the main clause to make sense, and it's often introduced by conjunctions.

For instance:

  • Independent clause: "I ate lunch."

  • Dependent clause: "While I watched TV." (This clause is not a complete sentence; it depends on the main clause and starts with the conjunction "while.")

Forming Complex Sentences

Now, let's put these components together. We can arrange the independent and dependent clauses in different ways within a complex sentence:

  • "While I watched TV, I ate lunch."

  • "I ate lunch while I watched TV."

As you can see, the independent clause can come before or after the dependent clause.

Mastering Conjunctions 'Although' and 'Even Though'

Conjunctions are like bridges that connect ideas in a sentence. Let's focus on two powerful ones: 'although' and 'even though.' When you want to express contrast or introduce a surprising twist, these conjunctions come into play. To use them effectively, remember to structure the dependent clause like this: 'although/even though' + Subject + Verb.

For example:

  • "Although we left late, we arrived at the airport on time."

  • "Even though we left late, we arrived at the airport on time."

Keep in mind that 'even though' tends to carry a stronger sense of contrast compared to 'although.'

Harnessing the Power of 'In Spite Of' and 'Despite'

These prepositional phrases are your tools for conveying similar information in a slightly different manner. To use 'in spite of' and 'despite,' simply add them to a noun, pronoun, or gerund.


  • "In spite of our delayed departure, we arrived on time." (noun)

  • "Despite leaving late, we arrived on time." (gerund)

Putting It All into Practice

Now, let's practice what we've learned. Here are some sentences to work on:

Dependent Clause:

  • "Even though she loved him, she never said it."

  • "Although I have enough money, I will not travel this year."

  • "Although he is a doctor, he does not earn a lot of money."

  • "We are not very close, even though he is my brother."

Prepositional Phrase:

  • "In spite of the storm, the Internet connection was stable."

  • "In spite of his failures, he was confident."

  • "Despite her bad grades, she caught up quickly."

  • "There were still people on the streets, in spite of the rain."

  • "In spite of her parents' wishes, she dropped out of university."

  • "In spite of being sick, he came to work today." (gerund)

Get ready to enhance your sentence-building skills by incorporating these concepts into your writing and speech. As you embrace the beauty of contrasts and combinations, you'll find yourself expressing ideas with a newfound flair. Let's dive in and master the art of complex sentences!

Using "Although/Even though" and "In spite of/despite" effectively can add depth and clarity to your writing. Here are some tips to help you decide when to use each of these conjunctions or prepositional phrases:

Although/Even though:

  1. Contrast or Unexpected Information: Use "Although/Even though" when you want to introduce a contrast between two ideas or when you want to present unexpected information. Example: Although it was raining, they decided to go for a walk.

  2. Complex Sentence Formation: These conjunctions are often used to create complex sentences by combining an independent clause with a dependent clause. Example: She passed the exam even though she hadn't studied much.

  3. Emphasizing Contrast: If you want to emphasize the contrast between two clauses, especially when the contrast is strong, opt for "Even though." Example: Even though he was exhausted, he stayed up all night to finish the project.

In spite of/despite:

  1. Contrasting Ideas: Similar to "Although/Even though," "In spite of/despite" is used to present a contrast between two ideas or situations. Example: In spite of the difficult conditions, they managed to complete the marathon.

  2. Prepositional Phrase: "In spite of/despite" is used as a prepositional phrase followed by a noun, pronoun, or gerund. Example: Despite her fear of heights, she climbed to the top of the mountain.

  3. Stronger Contrast: If you want to emphasize the contrast even more, or if the contrast is unexpected or surprising, choose "In spite of" over "Despite." Example: In spite of his lack of experience, he aced the interview.

Choosing Between Both:

  1. Degree of Contrast: If the contrast between the two clauses is mild to moderate, you can use either "Although/Even though" or "In spite of/despite." Example: Although/Even though it was cold, they went for a swim. OR In spite of/Despite the cold weather, they went for a swim.

  2. Style and Tone: Consider the tone of your writing. "Although/Even though" might sound more conversational, while "In spite of/despite" can lend a slightly more formal tone.

  3. Clarity: Prioritize clarity and readability. Choose the conjunction or prepositional phrase that best conveys your intended meaning.

  4. Placement: "Although/Even though" usually introduces a dependent clause, while "In spite of/despite" is followed by a noun, pronoun, or gerund.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Experiment with both options in different contexts to get a feel for their nuances. Ultimately, the goal is to choose the one that helps you express your ideas in the clearest and most engaging way possible.

Embracing Contrasts - A short text

Once upon a time, in a quaint little town, lived a man named Martin. He was known throughout the town as a diligent and hardworking individual. Despite his reputation as a good worker, Martin had never received a promotion at his job in the local bakery.

In the neighboring house, resided a woman named Emily. During her time in high school, she had passionately studied the French language. However, as the years went by, she found herself unable to hold a conversation in French anymore, despite her former proficiency.

One sunny afternoon, a group of friends gathered at the town's park for a game of football. In spite of the rain clouds looming above, they decided to go ahead with their plans. Laughter echoed through the air as they ran around the muddy field, enjoying the game in the face of the impending rain.

As the weekend approached, a buzz of excitement spread throughout the town. A grand party was on the horizon, and everyone was looking forward to it. Amidst the anticipation, news arrived that Henry, one of the most cheerful residents, had developed a severe stomach ache. However, despite his discomfort, Henry was determined not to miss the party. With a smile on his face and a determined spirit, he attended the celebration, dancing and chatting with his friends, even though his stomach still twinged.

After this eventful week, the townspeople were ready for something new. They had been through contrasting situations that showed their resilience and determination. Just like the sentences they practiced in their lesson, they had learned to embrace the differences, finding strength in the face of contrasts. And so, the town continued to thrive, its people forever ready to face whatever came their way with a spirit of unity and courage.


Practice Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

Fill in the blanks to complete the sentences using the appropriate conjunctions or prepositional phrases from the given options: 'Although/Even though' or 'In spite of/despite.'

  1. _____________ he didn't want to, he had to study for the test.

  2. ___________ he didn't like his job, he did not quit.

  3. ______________the fact that the clock is broken, it is still valuable.

  4. I'm going to the market, ____________ the rain.

  5. ______________ he waited for her, she did not come.

  6. He ran very quickly, _____________ being terribly overweight.

  7. _______________ it is the weekend, I still have to work.

  8. ______________ he is super smart, he never really shows it.

  9. He never said it, _____________ I am sure he was mad at me.

  10. _____________ his efforts, he couldn't solve the puzzle.

Note: Remember to choose the correct conjunction or prepositional phrase that fits the context of each sentence. Good luck!

Practice Exercise 2 : Discussion Questions

Answer the following questions using appropriate conjunctions or prepositional phrases: 'Although/Even though' or 'In spite of/despite.'

1. Why did Sarah go to the party?

  • Answer: Even though she was tired from work, Sarah went to the party to celebrate her friend's birthday.

2. How did they manage to win the game?

  • Answer: They won the game despite being the underdogs in terms of experience and skill.

3. What happened to the concert, given the rain?

  • Answer: In spite of the heavy rain, the concert went on as planned, showcasing the performers' dedication and the audience's enthusiasm.

4. How did you balance your studies and your part-time job?

  • Answer: Although I had a demanding part-time job, I managed to maintain my grades by carefully scheduling my study time.

5. Why was he late for the meeting?

  • Answer: He was late for the meeting even though he left his house well in advance; unexpected traffic caused the delay.

6. What motivated her to continue learning the instrument?

  • Answer: Despite facing initial difficulties, her passion for music drove her to persevere and excel in learning the instrument.

7. Why didn't they cancel the outdoor event considering the storm?

  • Answer: In spite of the stormy weather forecast, the organizers decided to proceed with the event, taking necessary precautions for attendees' safety.

8. How did he manage to achieve his fitness goals?

  • Answer: Although he struggled with his diet at times, his dedication to regular exercise led him to achieve his fitness goals.

9. Why didn't they win the competition, given their talent?

  • Answer: Even though they were talented, they didn't win the competition due to the tough competition from other equally skilled participants.

10. Why did they enjoy their camping trip despite the bugs and discomfort?

  • Answer: They enjoyed their camping trip in spite of the bugs and discomfort because they were surrounded by stunning natural scenery.

Practice Exercise 3 : Discussion Question Ideas: Using 'Although/Even though' and 'In spite of/despite'

  1. In your opinion, why do people continue to visit the old library in town

  2. What challenges did the team face during their expedition to the remote mountain region?

  3. Why did she decide to pursue a career in art, despite having a degree in engineering?

  4. How did the small village manage to sustain its traditional culture despite the influence of modernization?

  5. Why did he choose to stay in the city, even though he grew up in a rural area?

  6. What motivated her to continue her studies despite facing financial constraints?

  7. Why was the team unable to secure the contract for the project, despite their impressive proposal?

  8. How did they manage to organize a successful event, although they had limited time for preparation?

  9. What compelled him to keep practicing the instrument, even though he faced difficulties in the beginning?

  10. Why did they enjoy the camping trip so much, in spite of the lack of modern amenities?

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