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English Composition, Lesson 12. Order of Events

Study English Composition in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy

In this lesson, we will study how the order of events is to be expressed in writing. To complete the objectives of this lesson, complete the following tasks:

  1. Study the Lesson for mastery.
  2. Complete the lesson Assessment.
  3. Compose Theme V.
  4. Self-correct your theme.
  5. Submit your final theme for review.


The order in which events occur will assist in establishing the order in which to relate them. If you are telling about only one person, you can follow the time order of the events as they actually happened; but if you are telling about two or more persons who were doing different things at the same time, you will need to tell first what one did and then what another did. You must, however, make it clear to the reader that, though you have told one event after the other, they really happened at the same time.

In the selection below notice how the italicized portions indicate the relation in time that the different events bear to one another.

At the beach yesterday a fat woman and her three children caused quite a commotion. They had rigged themselves out in hired suits which might be described as an average fit, for that of the mother was as much too small as those of the children were too large. They trotted gingerly out into the surf, wholly unconscious that the crowd of beach loungers had, for the time, turned their attention from each other to the quartet in the water. By degrees the four worked out farther and farther until a wave larger than usual washed the smallest child entirely off his feet, and caused the mother to scream lustily for help. The people on the beach started up, and two or three men hastened to the rescue, but their progress was impeded by the crowd of frightened girls and women who were scrambling and splashing towards the shore. The mother’s frantic efforts to reach the little boy were rendered ineffectual by the two girls, who at the moment of the first alarm had been strangled by the salt water and were now clinging desperately to her arms and attempting to climb up to her shoulders. Meanwhile, the lifeboat man was rowing rapidly towards the scene, but it seemed to the onlookers who had rushed to the platform railing that he would never arrive. At the same time a young man, who had started from the diving raft some time before, was swimming towards shore with powerful strokes. He now reached the spot, caught hold of the boy, and lifted him into the lifeboat, which had at last arrived.

Such expressions as meanwhile, in the meantime, during, at last, while, etc., are regularly used to denote the kind of time relations now under discussion. They should be used when they avoid confusion, but often a direct transition from one set of actions to another can be made without their use. Notice also the use of the relative clause to indicate time relations.

Note: It is recommended that students review Conjunctions in English Grammar to better understand this lesson.

Theme V

Write a short theme, using some one of the subjects named under the preceding themes or one suggested by them. Select one which you have not already used.


  1. Have you told enough to enable the reader to follow easily the thread of the story and to understand what you meant to tell?
  2. If your theme is concerned with more than one set of activities, have you made the transition from one to another in such a way as to be clear to the reader, and have you expressed them with the proper time relations?
  3. What other questions should you ask yourself while correcting this theme?

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