Advanced English Grammar: 4 Ways to Supercharge Your Writing Skills
Writing is an important part of your English language journey.
By learning more and more advanced skills, you can further enhance your mastery of the English language.
So, if you are feeling confident with your current skills and are ready to learn something new, take the leap from intermediate to advanced English grammar! Get ready to discover new and exciting ways you can improve your writing knowledge.
- 1. Master Compound and Complex Sentences
- 2. Learn to Use Infinitives and Gerunds
- 3. Add Color to Your Writing with Advanced Verbs
- 4. Change the Focus with the Passive Voice
- Why Improving Your Writing Helps You Master More Advanced English
- Learning Formal Grammar Can Enhance Your English on Any Level
- And One More Thing...
1. Master Compound and Complex Sentences
Understanding how sentences are put together will help you gain confidence in using more interesting and complex language. Like building blocks, English sentences contain smaller parts that you need to create a complete whole.
Let us begin with a simple sentence . It contains a subject and an action, makes sense and is relatively short:
I am replying to your email.
Now, let us move on to compound sentences . These are two simple sentences put together, joined by a conjunction . A conjunction acts as a connecting word: because , and , but , so , if and or .
Two ideas or messages are joined together to make one longer and more detailed compound sentence:
I am replying to your email and I will write up the report today.
Now, we will add dependent clauses onto our sentences. When we add a dependent clause to our sentence, we create a complex sentence.
A complex sentence contains a dependent clause and an independent clause.
An independent clause is a sentence that makes sense on its own and contains a complete idea. In other words, if you read the independent clause alone, it makes perfect sense. In our example above, we connected two independent clauses into a compound sentence by joining them with a conjunction.
A dependent clause is a group of words or a phrase that needs more information to be understood. These usually use words like while , because , due to , even though and other similar words. A dependent clause might have a verb and a subject but it needs an independent clause to actually make sense.
Its job is to add information to the sentence. By using dependent clauses, you can add meaning and context to your writing.
For example, if I add a dependent clause to our example sentence, it will look like this:
I am replying to your email and I will write up the report today while I eat my lunch.
You did it! This sentence is now a complex sentence.
Dependent clauses can appear at the end, beginning or even in the middle of sentences:
I am replying to your email and, while I eat my lunch today, I will write up the report.
When inserted at the beginning or middle of a sentence, use commas to separate the dependent clause from the independent part of the sentence.
Always read your writing to ensure the addition of your dependent clause makes sense! If not, move it to a position in the sentence where it does.
Important note! Although we used a compound sentence for this example, a complex sentence does not need to be one. It just needs a dependent and independent clause working together.
Here are a few more examples of complex sentences. The dependent clause has been highlighted in bold.
My toddler was singing while walking to preschool this morning.
Though the weather was cold, she wore her new summer dress outside.
When he was young, he was very adventurous and went on many camping trips.
You try it! Can you make your own complex sentence?
2. Learn to Use Infinitives and Gerunds
Both infinitives and gerunds explain the action occurring in a sentence.
They differ in their verb form yet both are very helpful. Applying both of these advanced grammar techniques will help you master the art of writing.
An infinitive is a group of words that act as a verb. It follows a simple formula: use the word “to” + the base form of the verb.
To study , to work , to email , to meet , to eat and to become are all examples of infinitives.
A gerund is a verb used in its present tense, ending in -ing. It is special because it can sometimes be used as a noun. It names the activity being completed or the action being taken.
Studying , working , emailing , meeting , eating and becoming are all examples of gerunds.
Here are some common phrases, each expressed with infinitives and gerunds:
|I like to email first thing in the morning.||I like emailing first thing in the morning.|
|meet||I am to meet her after lunch.||I am meeting her after lunch.|
|study||He needs some time to study.||He needs some studying time.|
Many times, you can use either form of the word without changing the meaning too much.
Sometimes, however, using the infinitive or the gerund can result in different meanings. For example:
|spend||He’ll never forget to spend his money.||He’ll never forget spending his money.|
|talk||She is to talk to her boss.||She is talking to the boss.|
The difference here is the infinitives and gerunds express the action happening at two different times. The infinitive describes an action that has not yet happened but will in the future, while the gerund describes an action that has already happened or is currently happening.
A less obvious difference between the two can be seen in this example:
Infinitive: I’m afraid to fly (to New York tomorrow)
Gerund: I’m afraid of flying (in an airplane) .
Often, gerunds are used to say something in a general way (in this case, the fear of flying). Infinitives, though, are more direct and specific (in this case, the fear of a specific flight coming up).
Through use and practice, you will get a good understanding of the subtle differences between the two
One way to get plenty of practice is by hearing these concepts in action at FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
3. Add Color to Your Writing with Advanced Verbs
By now, I am sure you have realized English can be difficult as there are so many grammar rules as well as exceptions to these very same rules!
Although learning to use more advanced verbs can feel difficult, understanding them will help you convey your high-level English skills. Learning, practicing and mastering advanced verb forms will take you towards the highest levels of English fluency, not just in your writing but in your speaking too!
There are two forms of advance verbs we will cover here: irregular verbs and phrasal verbs.
English verbs have five forms: infinitive, simple present, simple past, past participle and present participle. The form you use depends on when the verb is happening.
Let’s take the regular verb “start.”
|Verb Form||Conjugations||Example Sentence|
|Infinitive||to start||He is to start the exam (soon).|
|Simple Present||starts||She starts the exam (in half an hour).|
|Simple Past||started||He started the exam (an hour ago).|
|Past Participle||started||She started the exam (while she was sick).|
|Present Participle||starting||He is starting the exam (right now).|
Notice how the simple past and past participle have the same grammar rule applied (add -ed at the end to show past tense). The verb “start” is a regular verb so it follows this rule every time.
Irregular verbs, however, do not follow the rules. Irregular verbs have inconsistent changes to the simple past and past participle forms that you can learn through investigation, repeated exposure and practice.
Here are examples of irregular verbs in their 5 verb forms:
|Infinitive||to begin||to choose||to come|
Some irregular verbs do not change at all! They do not take on the regular grammar rule of adding -ed or alter their spelling from the basic form of the verb.
“Put” : to put (infinitive), puts (simple present), put (simple past), put (past participle) and putting (present participle).
Although you may be thinking deeply about it now, this is one of those grammar rules you do not even realize you already use successfully! Developing this advanced grammar skill can be done by listening and identifying what sounds right when speaking and writing in English. In addition to this, understanding how the irregular verbs take shape will help you use these interesting verbs with greater success.
Phrasal verbs are a combination of words that act as a verb.
For a basic introduction to phrasal verbs, be sure to check out the video below.
Phrasal verbs follow a formula: verb + preposition or adverb.
The prepositions and adverbs used in phrasal verbs can actually be the same words. Examples of these include the words down , out , on , off , in and up . All these words can be used in a phrasal verb as a preposition (positional language) or as an adverb (description of the verb).
Examples of phrasal verbs include:
get in , bring out , try on , calm down , put off, hold on
We use phrasal verbs just like regular or irregular verbs in English sentences. Here are some examples you can introduce into your more advanced English writing:
Please switch on your laptop.
You left out a word in this sentence.
Are you about to take off soon?
She will hand out the worksheets.
Phrasal verbs are very common in day to day language as well as in more advanced formal writing. It always helps to have a native English speaking friend explain the meaning and context of any phrasal verbs you do not understand. If you do not have one, consider finding a language exchange partner.
4. Change the Focus with the Passive Voice
Changing the focus or emphasis in your sentences allows you to direct attention to specific information. Highlighting information in this way changes its importance and can subtly change the message.
To understand how to use the passive voice, you first need to understand two concepts within sentences: subjects and objects.
A subject is a thing in the sentence that is directly causing an action.
An object is a thing in the sentence that is being acted upon.
Look at the following sentence:
Lisa made a phone call.
Lisa is the subject (she is doing the action) and the phone call is the object (the thing that is begin acted upon or the result of the action taking place). This sentence uses an active voice.
With this understanding, we can alter our sentences to change the focus using the passive voice.
The passive voice is created by taking the focus from the subject and placing it on the object.
Using our previous example, by moving the focus to the phone call (the object) we can generate passive voice within the new sentence:
A phone call was made by Lisa.
This takes attention and importance away from the subject.
Sometimes the subject is even omitted, making it unknown or non-existent:
A phone call was made.
So why do we use passive voice in our writing to take the focus away from the subject?
Passive voice allows you to effectively shift the focus for the people you are communicating with. It gives you the control to subtly alter the meaning of your writing and engage the reader from a slightly different point of view. This is helpful when creating polite emails to clients or communicating with fellow students or co-workers.
Using an active voice in your sentences is more to the point. It can sound more demanding and accusatory of the subject. Changing an active voice to a passive voice is much more respectful of the subject. It is more often used when writing to and speaking with your elders and superiors at school and in the workplace.
Though be careful not to overuse it! The passive voice can also make your sentences sound vague and lacking in confidence. Finding the right balance is important.
Once you understand how to shift the focus from active to passive, you can create a whole range of interesting sentences to use every day. Here are some examples to try:
|David||David is writing an email.||An email is being written by David.|
|Sarah||hours of studying||Sarah is exhausted from hours of studying.||Hours of studying have made Sarah exhausted.|
|John||meeting||John felt very important because of the meeting.||The meeting made John feel very important.|
Why Improving Your Writing Helps You Master More Advanced English
Let’s face it, writing is everywhere. Whether it is on the side of our cereal boxes or written across a bus, writing surrounds us. And depending on where you live, that writing might be in English.
Improving your skills in English writing will help you in nearly every situation you find yourself in.
Whether the circumstances are ordinary (like reading a set of instructions), extraordinary (like writing a letter to the Queen), informal (texting your best friend) or formal (reviewing your work contract), knowing some advanced English grammar will give you a higher level of understanding.
And since writing is so multi-sensory (includes different senses), improving your English writing will also improve your knowledge of the English language. By physically writing things down, you are also training your eyes to see grammar patterns and spelling and your ears to listen for these concepts. You can even speak your sentences out loud to practice speech. Using all these senses when writing allows for many deeper learning opportunities.
Therefore, writing can help extend your English knowledge and communication skills to improve your career, relationships and everyday life.
Learning Formal Grammar Can Enhance Your English on Any Level
At this point, you may be asking, “Why would I need to learn advanced grammar when I do not often use advanced English?” Well, although it may not be obvious, advanced grammar concepts are the building blocks of even our most common, informal language.
English was developed in a time where formalities were the norm. It is only over time that the language has morphed (changed) into the more relaxed, social language you hear today.
This means that even today’s casual language actually comes from advanced English. In fact, the common language is often just a simpler version of the formal, advanced version. Colloquial phrases, idioms, humorous discussions and everyday conversations can be better understood when you know the advanced grammar behind them.
Learning advanced English grammar will help you achieve success in your writing and beyond. It will help you gain a broader understanding of the structures and functions of all levels of the English language.
Although many advanced grammar techniques seem to only make minor changes in your writing, it is this subtlety that gives you the power to direct the experience of your readers. Learning to apply these grammar concepts will make your learning journey more interesting and enjoyable while boosting your level of skill and moving you towards English mastery.
Better still, advanced English grammar knowledge provides you with the power to create something that really engages people and gets the unbreakable attention of your reader. Advanced grammar skills will help you seek respect in the workplace, prove your depth of educational knowledge and present yourself confidently when it really counts.
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.