More doesn’t always mean better. Smarter is better.

One sentence may be as useful for teaching purposes as a wall of text with lots of words.

My today’s post is a collection of one-sentence games (see Word Games if you’d like to try some games with words). These are games that require next to no time to prepare and might be used to help students retain new vocabulary and grammar, improve their speaking and writing, while playing around with the language.

One-sentence game: expanding a sentence

Similar to the Telescopic Text experiment, the aim of the game is to expand a phrase or a simple sentence into as long a sentence as possible by adding extra words. You can play the game with the whole group or split students into small teams. Write a single word or a phrase on the board. Then invite students to add one or two extra words to make it into a longer sentence. Each word brings one point. The winner is the one who has scored more points.


Go to the shop

Go to the shop to buy a mug

Go to the shop to buy a coffee mug

Go to the shop to buy a ceramic coffee mug

I need to go to the shop to buy a lovely ceramic coffee mug

I need to go to the shop to buy a lovely ceramic coffee mug for my mom

Today, I need to go to the shop to buy a lovely ceramic coffee mug for my mom…………………………………………………………………………………

You can use this game to make any gap-fill exercise more learning rich. Get students to suggest more words or phrases that could be added to the item (before/after).

E.g. They ______ (to plan) a trip.

They planned a trip to England.

They planned a 2-day trip to England.

They planned a 2-day trip to England so they could see ………………….


Opposite game

The idea is beautifully explained in the Opposites Game by Brendan Constantine.

As a writing exercise, Brendan Constantine gives students a line of famous poetry and asks them to write, word for word, the exact opposite.

This activity works really well as a pre-reading exercise, serving as a springboard for further discussion.

The curious cat

Students recite alphabet silently, the Curious Cat says ‘STOP’ and points randomly at a player. The player tells which letter he/she stopped at. Or use the Random Letter Generator.

The Curious Cat asks students different questions – Who? Why? Where? When?, etc. – to which the players should give short answers starting with the letter they picked (this can be a phrase or a single word). For example, the letter ‘C’:

‘Who?’ – Captain Cook. – ‘Where?’ – Congo. ‘With whom?’ – Caitleen. ‘Where from?’ Cairo. ‘When?’ – Christmas night.

Every time a player cannot give an answer, the Cat gets one point. The game stops after the Cat gets three points.

You can also use it to practise answering and asking questions (grammar focus). Get the Cat to ask full questions:

Who?’ – Captain Cook. – ‘Where did Captain Cook go?’ – He went to Congo. ‘With whom did he go to Congo?’ – With Caitleen/He went there with Caitleen. ‘Where was Caitleen from?’ – She was from Cairo. ‘When did Captain Cook and Caitleen go to Congo?’ – They went to Congo on Christmas night.

Ask your students to make up one sentence answering the questions, “Who, does what, to whom, when, where, how, and why?” in one long sentence.

E.g. Captain Cook and Caitleen were sure nothing Congo wrong on Christmas night.

3 word challenge

Either use your list of words, or

hand out a sheet of paper to each student. Ask them to write down

a noun

Rotate the sheets.

a verb

Rotate the sheets.

an adjective

Rotate the sheets.

a noun

Rotate the sheets.

any word at their choice

Rotate the sheets.

Once each student has got their words, tell them that they must write a single sentence that uses all the five words.

build a sentence

This game can be played by 2-3 players. Write a simple sentence. Then players should add one word to the sentence to make a new sentence.

build a sentence

The player who adds the last word wins.


Hangman with a sentence sounds like an ideal combination.

Pick any sentence. I often use opening lines from different books (often, the ones I’d like my students to open and read, or the ones that are relevant to the topic of class discussion). The rules are the same as in Basic Hangman: draw a blank line for each word in the sentence, and ask your students to guess it by suggesting words. If the sentence is long, you may give a few words to simplify the task a bit.

So, this is the opening line from Peter Pan. Have you read the book?


Draw one element of a hangman’s gallows when the students guess wrong. If you find Hangman insensitive, it might be easily transformed into a score-based game. Give a point to the team for each word guessed.

Sentence hangman answer

* * *

Here’s an interesting idea from Tefldust:

Present the first letters of each word of the sentence and ask students to come up with a grammatically correct sentence.

* * *

Do you have a good one-sentence game to add to this collection?


  1. Tick tock translation.


    1. Prewrite numerous short sentences that suit the level of the students (one
    sentence per page).
    2. Break the class into two teams.
    3. Select one team member from each team and bring them to the front.
    4. Taking turns, show one of the teams one of the sentences, but don’t let the
    student at the front see it. Start the timer for 2-3 minutes.
    5. That team can only speak their native language to their team member at the
    front. The member in front must say the English sentence exactly as it is
    6. When they get it correct, switch to another sentence and show the other team.
    7. Continue showing sentences to each team in turn until time runs out.
    8. When time runs out, the team taking a turn at that time loses.

  2. Hi Svetlana,
    Thanks for sharing these games. I’m not really sure I understand how ‘build a sentence’ works – is it kind of like a crossword when they’re adding words to make new sentences?

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