Grammar Myths Debunked: Starting a sentence with “because.”

Grammar Myths Debunked: Starting Sentences with "Because" (From dickdotcom on Flickr.)

A frequent issue that comes up while editing is whether or not sentences can start with the word, “because.” This answer to this question is actually hotly contested… and often misconstrued.

Can you start a sentence with “because”?

The answer is yes. Yes, you can! It’s perfectly okay to start a sentence with because. The word, because is a subordinating conjunction; meaning, it introduces subordinating clauses. In function, it is similar to the words after and although, and the phrases as if, and in order that– all words that can begin sentences without a problem. See?

However, you still have to be careful– when using because or any  other subordinating conjunction, you must have a main clause in your sentence. Meaning, you cannot use a subordinate clause on its own, as it would be a fragment.

Here is an example of what I mean.

Because I woke up late, I missed my flight.

This sentence is correct. Why? “I missed my flight” is the main clause of the sentence– meaning, this clause, by itself, is a perfectly fine sentence that can stand up on its own. A subordinate clause can augment a main clause but, as it is subordinating, it cannot stand by itself. “Because I woke up late” by itself would be a fragment.

A helpful way to remember this is to think of subordinating clauses separately, and consider whether it provides enough information in its own to satisfy what needs to be known. Such as:

Because the table was wobbly, I spilled some of my coffee.

“Because the table was wobbly” doesn’t offer enough information on its own: because the table was wobbly what? What happened? Why does the table’s wobbliness matter? “I spilled some of my coffee” is the answer to these burning questions.

In these examples, I’ve formed these sentences to be [subordinate clause] + [main clause]  so the difference is immediately clear– they are separated by a comma and are easier to spot. However, the same rules apply if you are to write these sentences as [main clause] + [subordinate clause]. Such as:

I missed my flight because I woke up late.

“I missed my flight” stands on its own and, while it’s a crappy situation, gives enough information by itself. “Because I woke up late” still doesn’t make sense, without being prefaced with what happened, first.

I spilled my coffee because the table was wobbly.

Likewise, “I spilled my coffee” is another unfortunate situation that can stand alone. “Because the table was wobbly” is not enough to stand up by itself.*

 

*I promise this pun was accidental!

 

 

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One Response to Grammar Myths Debunked: Starting a sentence with “because.”

  1. [...] my last grammar post, I covered how starting sentences with because is actually grammatically acceptable. Now, I will show you how you can also end sentences with [...]

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