How many times in your writing have you started a sentence with “because,” only to second guess yourself and your grammar abilities?
While this is something that we are not generally taught in English class, it can drastically change the quality of your writing.
I can almost bet that when you originally started writing, most likely with book reports when you were in elementary school, you were told to stay away from starting sentences with words like, “because, and, but” and others.
English grammar is a fickle mistress.
Well, let me be the first to tell you, your English teachers mislead you.
English grammar is a fickle mistress.
While some concepts are black and white, others are elusive and make us wonder about our sanity and why we even do this in the first place.
So allow me to shine some light on the grammar mystery of the proper usage of “because.”
We are here today to determine if you can indeed start a sentence with “because,” when it is appropriate, and when you should avoid it all costs.
So let’s dive right in…
Can You Start a Sentence With “Because?”
The short answer is YES, you certainly can start a sentence with “because.”
You know why? Because it can be use it at the beginning of an independent clause as it connects with the notion of “why” in your story, article or in your business writing.
It is a common misconception that “because” should be used within the sentence to explain something rather than at the beginning.
It’s not your fault for thinking that though. It is easier to explain to someone just learning about grammar to just not use it at all rather than explain the idiocracies of how and when to use it.
However, for this concept to work and for it to be grammatically correct, there are some guidelines that writers need to follow.
There are, in fact, two ways in which to properly start a sentence with “because.”
Because this can be a difficult concept, please allow me to explain.
See what I did there…
Using “Because” As a Main Clause
This is the first of two ways to properly use “because” at the beginning of a sentence.
Traditionally, the word “because” is used as a subordinating conjunction, meaning it is used to connect two clauses to a coordinating conjunction, or dependent clause.
It connects a subordinate clause to a main clause, as the grammar rule says.
Where a main clause can be a stand alone sentence, you need a subordinate conjunction to connect a main and subordinate clause to appease the grammar gods.
Let’s take a look at a simple sentence structure and how people commonly use “because”:
“We decided to set up the sprinkler because it was so hot outside.”
Generally speaking, this is how most people would write this sentence. They would use “because” to explain an action.
But let’s flip these around and see what happens…
Let me provide you with an example of putting “because” at the beginning of the sentence:
“Because it was so hot outside, we decided to set up the sprinkler.”
While it might not look correct, no grammar guru will stick their nose up at it.
However, if you were to split the sentence into two different sentences, then that is a big no-no.
Let’s take a look to see if it’s a formal writing:
“Because it was so hot outside. We decided to set up the sprinkler.”
“We decided to set up the sprinkler. Because it was so hot outside. ”
No, no, no, bad writer!
This sentence is completely incorrect because it ends up as two sentence fragments instead of a complete sentence. If you are unsure, simply read the sentence aloud, by itself.
Does it make sense?
If it doesn’t then it’s a sentence fragment.
In order to keep in the good graces of the grammar gods, you need to ensure that the subordinate clause, “because it was hot outside,” is followed by a main clause, “we decided to set up the sprinkler.”
The biggest thing you have to remember when it comes to starting a sentence with “because,” is that the sentence needs two parts, two clauses, separated by a comma.
Because when you have a comma to separate the two clauses, it will make the sentence complete.
So you see, it’s really not that complicated.
If you are going to use “because” in the middle of a sentence, you can most likely swap it around to the beginning without breaking any grammar rules.
However, this is grammar in the English language – you know informal writing – that we are talking about, it can never just be a simple answer.
Starting a Sentence With “Because” as a Conversation
In addition to the two clause rule, you can also start a sentence with “because” as part of a spoken conversation or written dialogue.
There is a caveat to this rule though.
When using “because” in a conversation, it should be to answer the “why” question.
Let’s look at a few examples of how this would not work:
“How did you lose all that weight?”
“Because I started running.”
Nope, that doesn’t sound right!
“What time are we leaving?”
“Because I want to leave at 5pm.”
That also sounds terrible…
“Who ate my cookies?”
“Because I was hungry.”
I guess the third time isn’t the charm. Let’s discuss how to use “because” at the beginning of a sentence to answer a “why” question.
This works for both written and spoken conversations.
I bet if you are a parent, you have used this without even realizing it. Think about every time your kids (or you as a kid) asked why they couldn’t do or have something…
“Because I said so.”
While this can be a highly frustrating answer for kids, it doesn’t break any grammar rules.
While some grammar snobs would disagree and state that it is a sentence fragment, therefore, incorrect.
The real answer to this dilemma is that it depends on the writing.
Using the sentence, “Because I said so,” in a conversation or dialogue piece is perfectly acceptable.
You would certainly be able to find many examples of this in novels. While it technically might break some grammar rules, it certainly makes sense.
“Why did you go outside?”
“Because there were too many people in there.”
You see how that makes so much more sense?
This should hopefully shed some light on how and why you should start a sentence with “because.” Knowing these simple, or maybe complicated, grammar rules will help to add some variety to your writing.
What About Starting A Sentence With Coordinating Conjunctions?
Just like with “because,” it can be confusing whether or not it is okay to start a sentence with other conjunctions.
I wanted to quickly outline this so that you can add even more variety to your writing.
The purpose of a coordinating conjunction is to join two words, clauses, or phrases. They are often used to join two independent clauses that could technically be broken up into two stand alone sentences.
“We had pasta for dinner but we had leftovers for lunch.”
Each of these clauses could be their own independent sentences.
“We had pasta for dinner. We had leftovers for lunch.”
In the first sentence, “but,” was used as a coordinating conjunction to join the two sentences.
But what about starting a sentence with “but?”
There are, in fact, seven different coordinating conjunctions that you can use to start a sentence:
Did I just throw a wrench in your grammar concepts?
While they are less formal than using other conjunctive adverbs, you can still use these to start a sentence.
You might be more familiar with starting sentence with words like:
Oftentimes, the formal and less formal conjunctions can be used interchangeably at the beginning of a sentence.
However, you have to consider your audience. You don’t want your writing to sound too stuffy or too informal.
If you are writing academic papers or writing for other professionals, then you will want to stick with the more formal conjunctions.
But, if you are writing for a blog post, or younger audience, don’t get too formal.
A Work In Progress
If you haven’t figured it out already, writing is a skill set that you need to continually develop.
Just because you have been a writer for a really long time, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are perfect, or even that great. No matter if you are a fiction writer, a copywriter, or you’re writing case studies for businesses, there is always something new to learn.
While many writers might think of grammar as this black and white concept and that always has to be perfect, it’s really not.
That might have been what they taught us in school, but that’s not how it works in the real world.
While there are many grammar principles that writers should honor, there are also many that can be broken and rearranged.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing and your grammar.
Challenge the rules and throw convention out the window.
If grammar is something that you continue to struggle with, take some time to focus on your editing process.
You could also hire a professional editor to help critique your work. But don’t get too bogged down in all the technical aspects of your writing.
Free yourself to write and get your message across, then go back and worry about all the grammar and technical stuff later.