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Can You Start a Sentence with "Because"?

Categories: Grammar.
Q: My grammar school teachers always told me that it was wrong to start a sentence with the word “because,” but I commonly see it in books today. What’s the rule?—Roger Allen

A: Grammar teachers across the U.S., please don’t hate me, as I’m about to expose the awful truth you’ve been trying to hide for years: It’s not poor grammar to start a sentence with “because.” That’s right, there’s no rule or law in grammar books that denies you the right to start a sentence with this conjunction. A sentence such as, Because I needed money, I sold my body to science, is not only grammatically correct, it’s also more effective than if it were the other way around (I sold my body to science because I needed the money).

So why do teachers parade this nonexistent rule to our youth? They want to prevent the future scholars from writing in fragments, and kids have a tendency to write incomplete sentences like Because I can or Because he’s smelly. Instead of telling kids that they can’t start a sentence with “because,” it’d be more proper to make them complete their sentences. But I know how difficult it is to get kids to complete anything.

Brian A. Klems is the online community editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwmedia.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line.

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0 Responses to Can You Start a Sentence with "Because"?

  1. Some of my favorite grammar books are the ones such as ‘Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins’ that debunk old myths. There is no value in perpetuating rules that aren’t really rules, but the practice persists because it’s easier to parrot these little maxims than to teach the truth that writing is an art rather than a science (and parroting little rules rather than teaching well is a pervasive problem in the education system, but that’s a discussion for another day!) .

    The best way to learn to write is to read endlessly, widely, deeply, and to hear beautiful prose read aloud. This will meld the rhythm and cadence of properly spoken language into the mind so that it flows back out when writing. Little rules such as "don’t end sentences with a preposition" or "don’t begin a sentence with a conjunction" are not the building blocks of a great writer!

  2. Lydia Sharp says:

    Thanks for clarifying that.

  3. Thanks for your comments everyone.
    @Willie: I’m not making a social statement about how any teacher teaches the language (as I have a beyond-great appreciation for teachers–my mom is one). The question at hand is, Is it acceptable to use Because to start a question, and according to the rules of grammar it is.

    But keep doing what you’re doing, because getting kids to pay attention and learn is an uphill battle and amazing feat.

    @Wendi: Great question. I’ll be addressing this soon.
    Brian

  4. Willie Cobb says:

    My wife and I have discussed the issue of "because" for many years now. We are both educators and parents. My wife who is the English major, whole-heartedly agrees with you. The fact is, you are both absolutely wrong. Educating young people is difficult on its own, but when you have to educate inner city young people who are quite often undereducated and lack proper English skills, it makes it that much more difficult to teach how to properly use the word because. Some of these students come to class ill-prepared and writing how they speak. They speak in fragments and improper English. Getting them to speak properly, let alone write properly is difficult enough without having to explain to them why they should not use the word because to start a sentence. Writing without "because" to open up a sentence makes certain students much better writers and takes away some of the difficulties that some teachers have in teaching some of these students. It simply sounds better not to start out a sentence with because. While I appreciate and understand your opinion, I respectfully disagree with you and my English teacher wife.

  5. Joyce Wells says:

    Good advice,Brian. That construction works well in that sentence because the most important part comes at the end for emphasis!!!
    Watched your performance at the Poetry Slam online. Don’t know what to day about the poetry, but you are a great performer.

  6. Julie Dao says:

    Thank you so much for this entry. I use "because" at the beginning of a sentence very often and don’t see anything wrong with it! And to the above poster who asked the question about ending a sentence with the word "with" – I see nothing wrong with that either. Your sentence makes perfect sense to me and is grammatically correct.

  7. Wendi S. Harrington says:

    I have a question. Is this sentence correct? "The scanner made a low-pitched sound Dinny had become all too familiar with." My step-son says you are not allowed to end a sentence with the word "with", so I asked him what you are supposed to end it with. He couldn’t tell me a more appropriate way to word his remark or my rebuttal– only that he knew they were both wrong. I have attempted to re-word my original sentence and did not like the results.

  8. Right you are Brian! You’re right on the grade school teachers’ reason for misleading all of us in our youth — and, more importantly, you’re right that starting with because is not just acceptable — it often is preferable!! (Why? Because it’s freeing!!)

  9. A-men brother. As a retired teacher of writing and now an author. I DID teach the use of Because he could get away with it, he did. It’s concise and to the point. Because I taught my students the proper use of the word, they became better writers.

  10. So, BK…what about starting a sentence with "but"? Is there no rule for that?
    Because I do it all the time. But I really don’t WANT to, if it’s against the rules. It’s just so hard to be good sometimes. ;)
    Don’t you think it’s fun–and effective–to break a few rules every now and again?

  11. j.howard kelley says:

    A parent’s favorite refrain list:

    Because, I said so.
    Because, if you don’t I’ll…
    Because, your eyes will stay that way…

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