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I try my best to use proper sentence construction and punctuation, and for my amusement, I've taken the quest to find meaningful situations where one might use the various conjunctions at the beginning of sentences. I was told that "because" was the only one that's worthy of being placed at the start of a complete sentence. However, I've taught myself to challenge what I've been taught by attempting to discover flaws or contradictions in the logic. Along my journey, I've noticed that English is full of opposite words thus maintaining harmony and balance. By now, you should see where I'm heading with this idea; I've set out to find the inverse to the word "because." I know of the obvious examples that come to mind such as "except," "albeit," and "not because." None of these seemed to suit a universal role, though, but I believe I have discovered a solution, and I would like to know if this would be acceptable for use in sophisticated writing:

But for the faint, guiding light in the distance, the hallway was completely dark.

Which would have the same meaning as the following statement:

The hallway was completely dark but for the faint, guiding light in the distance.

Here we have the same two clauses and the same idea, but in a different order. You might observe that the phrase "but for" can be a wide-use substitute for the three examples previously listed (not directly, but in combination with other words). Please keep in mind that I follow strict guidelines, and I strive to present myself as professional as possible when conveying my ideas through language, and as such, I would prefer it if your responses would take this proposal in the same perspective.

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And did those Feet / in ancient time / walk upon England's mountains green? / And was the holy Lamb of God / on England's pleasant pastures seen? / And did the Countenance Divine / shine forth upon these clouded hills? / And was Jerusalem builded here / among these dark Satanic mills? - Blake was almost certainly insane, but he did prove that you can write some beautiful, stirring nationalist nonsense while starting sentences with prepositions. This is one of those rules - like never splitting infinitives - that probably ought to be retired. –  MT_Head Jul 29 '13 at 22:48
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Duplicate of english.stackexchange.com/q/593 and english.stackexchange.com/q/16976 and many others besides. Or did you really think we hadn’t already discussed this long, long ago? So that should do it, eh? But whatever trips your trigger. Nor are the peeves done with even now. Yet still they come. And that’s enough. –  tchrist Jul 29 '13 at 23:10
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The OED has entire section, section III, on the use of and for starting things off. 11. Continuing the narration: a. from a previous sentence, expressed or understood. b. from the implied assent to a previous question or opinion, = Yes! and; as ‘Will you go?’ ‘And take you with me.’ ‘This applies to all men, I suppose?’ ‘And to women too.’ 12 In expressing surprise at, or asking the truth of, what one has already heard. Similar things can be found for the other conjunctions. –  tchrist Jul 29 '13 at 23:37
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Perhaps you should simply not worry about using but or and or any other conjunction at the beginning of a sentence. This is a burden you simply don't need to bear. Let it go. –  Robusto Jul 29 '13 at 23:37
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@AndrewLarsson Yes, I know: see my initial comment. The damage done by uptight busybodies telling people what not to do is incalculable. –  tchrist Jul 29 '13 at 23:49
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marked as duplicate by tchrist, TrevorD, MετάEd, Kris, Matt Эллен Jul 30 '13 at 7:54

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Your example sentence has but for, which is a preposition, not a conjunction. So none of the so-called rules prohibiting starting sentences with a conjunction apply.

As the comments here and other answers to similar questions make clear, there are times when it is absolutely the best choice to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction such as and, but, or.

Language Log has an excellent article on this, which contains the following text:

There is nothing in the grammar of the English language to support a prescription against starting a sentence with and or but --- nothing in the norms of speaking and nothing in the usage of the best writers over the entire history of the literary language. Like all languages, English is full of mechanisms to promote coherence by linking a sentence with its discourse context, and on any sensible evaluation, this is a Good Thing. Whoever invented the rule against sentence-initial and and but, with its preposterous justification in terms of an alleged defect in sentential "completeness", must have had a tin ear and a dull mind. Nevertheless, this stupid made-up rule has infected the culture so thoroughly that 60% of the AHD's (sensible and well-educated) usage panel accepts it to some degree.

People who have internalised such zombie rules (Language Log) from school have maybe suffered from teachers who applied the "If they do it too much, they must be told not to do it at all" syndrome. In other words, elementary school students are told never to start a sentence with and to preclude typical narratives that are a string of "And then I did this ... And then I did that ... ." This is what people tend to remember, and not the more nuanced discussion that takes places (should take place) in high school English class.

Again, there is a helpful discussion of the above syndrome on Language Log.

As an aside, because is a subordinating conjunction, and there is never a problem starting a sentence with a subordinating conjunction, as long as the clause it begins is followed by a main clause - otherwise you have a sentence fragment. But, again, there is no prohibition on writing fragments. Because they can be the most effective way to make your point.

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