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Since vs. Because

Categories: Brian Klems' The Writer's Dig, Grammar Rules Tags: Brian Klems, grammar, online editor blog.

Q: I’ve always been told I have to use “since” when referring to time and “because” when referring to cause. Is that true?

A: While “because” does imply cause, “since” can imply time or cause. What does that mean? It means that most of the time these words are synonymous and you can use either one.

Since my dog is so hairy, I have to get its hair cut regularly.
Because my dog is so hairy, I have to get its hair cut regularly.

Both of these sentences are correct. The only trap you have to watch out for when using “since” is ambiguity.

Since we had breakfast, we were filled with energy.

This lets you wonder, were we filled with energy because of breakfast or just after breakfast?

Want other Grammar Rules? Check out:
Who vs. Whom
Which vs. That
Raise vs. Rise
Sneaked vs. Snuck
Ensure vs. Insure
Home in vs. Hone in
Leaped vs. Leapt

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7 Responses to Since vs. Because

  1. bubububean says:

    You’re right in saying that since has two different senses, but sorry, I don’t think one of them is as a synonym for because.

    Because expresses cause or reason, since expresses circumstance. Both of your example sentences are correct because the A part of the sentence (my dog is hairy) could be interpreted as a general cause or a presentcircumstance. That’s not so obviously the case with these two sentences:

    Because you’ve been late every day this week, i’m going to have to dock your pay. ( cause)
    Actually, our meeting is for this time tomorrow, but since you’re here, we might as well have our discussion. (Circumstance)
    The distinction is a fine one but I suspect most native speakers would feel a little uneasy using because in the second sentence. Since would work in the first sentence but the sense would be a little different, not ‘this is the reason’ but ‘now here’s the situation’.

  2. jotokai says:

    The word “since” reminds me of a phrase: “Ad hoc, ergo propter hoc.” Allegedly, this Latin means, “After the fact, therefore, because of the fact.”

    In other words, life only provides things linked with “since” and we add the “because”- not always with good reason.

  3. sevengable says:

    When is there going to be more Questions & Quandaries? It’s quite been awhile now.

  4. Thank you for that balanced explanation. Language is a living entity and its usage and structure changes over time. In this day and age with the rapid pace of technology, the global community and the Internet more words are obtaining multiple definitions and changed usage. I love your point at the end that when making decisions on which word to use that at the root of it is clarity for your reader so your intended meaning is clear.

  5. Bigfoot says:

    Hmmn! After rattling that sentence around in my noggin a little bit, it (the sentence) cries for context. I’m hearing Estelle Getty’s character toss that line out in “Golden Girls”.

  6. Sean McAlpin says:

    Since my childhood I have been writing because I love the act of expression thru words. http://seanmcalpin.com/

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