Sign up ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In my grade school days, I recall a teacher proclaiming to the class:

You should never start a sentence with the word "Because".

Of course, I've since seen lots of examples to the contrary, and done so my self that seem to be perfectly correct, grammatically.

Did she shorten some other rule that allows for specific exceptions?
Did she just make it up because writing sentences starting with because is a little tricky for young and inexperienced minds?
Is there some other reason?

share|improve this question
And I was told never to start a sentence with 'and'. – Skilldrick Aug 13 '10 at 22:41
What would the reply to a question like "Why didn't you go to the cinema?" be? I have never heard somebody replying with "I didn't go to the cinema because …". – kiamlaluno Aug 13 '10 at 23:23
This "rule" comes from the same place as the "rule" which caused Winston Churchill to quip: "Ending a sentence with a preposition is a practise up with which I will not put." – vanden Aug 14 '10 at 15:05
You would answer with the clause, "because I was tired." In conversation, you are not required to speak in full sentences. Sentences (in English) are designed to contain a subject and predicate and are written constructs. You don't say "Look out comma Fred exclamation point" in spoken English. Interestingly, some languages don't require full "sentences" and don't even mark their sentences by punctuation, leaving it up to the reader to figure out where they start and stop. A HEAVILY contextual language is Japanese. You can state a complete thought (contextually) with one verb, based on context. – Armstrongest Sep 7 '10 at 17:17
@Atomix - which reminds me of the famous Victor Borge Phonetic Punctuation – BIBD Sep 13 '10 at 12:51

11 Answers 11

up vote 55 down vote accepted

It is appropriate when you have simply flipped the clauses:

I stayed inside because it was raining.

Because it was raining, I stayed inside.

What the teacher was trying to teach was that a a subordinate clause is not a complete sentence:

I stayed inside.

This is a complete sentence.

Because it was raining.

This is not; the conjunction because makes it subordinate and therefore, it requires an associated independent clause.

share|improve this answer
I have upvoted your answer. I completely agree with you, and I don't see why you have less upvotes than the ones above. – user461 Aug 14 '10 at 3:48
I didn't quite understand you guys. "Why have you stayed?" "because it was raining." Why would this be wrong? – Pavel Radzivilovsky Aug 15 '10 at 22:48
@Pavel:In speech, this works fine because the latter half of the sentence is implied. (Because it was raining, I stayed inside). It wouldn't be a complete sentence in writing though. – Manjima Sep 8 '10 at 8:37
Teaching what is an incomplete sentence is a different issue from when the use of incomplete sentences is or is not appropriate. Also, I have a problem with any hard rule about "never start with 'because'" OR "never use incomplete sentences." There are many cases where even in somewhat formal writing, an incomplete sentence could be appropriate. Right? – ErikE Sep 29 '10 at 6:58
I'm with ErikE on this one. If the question is about writing "proper" English, then this is the right answer. However, if someone is asking for help speaking or understanding real-life spoken English, they need to understand when this can (and is) actually used. If you answer a Why question by repeating the entire question with your answer tacked on the end with a because conjunction, people will look at you funny. – T.E.D. Jul 8 '11 at 18:45

The rule is really made up to prevent primary school children splitting their sentences up randomly. This is just one of those rules that's made to be broken... when you know it sounds ok.

share|improve this answer
It can be dangerous to teach incorrect rules to children with no intention of unteaching them later on. These are insidious "guidelines" that will carry with each child for the rest of their life. – Vincent McNabb Aug 14 '10 at 1:12

Because I don't know your teacher, I can't know her motivations. However, there is nothing wrong with starting a sentence that way if you are careful to write a complete sentence.

share|improve this answer
It's that last qualification that is the most important, I think. In grade school, the children are unlikely to write a sentence starting with "Because" that isn't a fragment. Perhaps this is just a shortcut to avoid having to teach more complex structures too early. – mmyers Aug 13 '10 at 22:13
Unfortunately, all these "rules" apparently stick in our heads and make us afraid to do things like end a sentence with the word "me." – JohnFx Aug 13 '10 at 22:50
I see what you did there. – user459 Aug 16 '10 at 10:04

Because is a conjunction.

Hey, I started the sentence with 'Because', and I'm sure no English Teacher would object to this!

share|improve this answer
Arguably, your sentence should be punctuated as “Because” is a conjunction (or single quotes instead of double), so you started your sentence with “Because” and not with Because. ;-) – ShreevatsaR Aug 14 '10 at 3:36
@ShreevatsaR: Not just arguably! Use and mention confusion is the root of much evil in philosophy of language and logic. (How many letters in red? Trick question, red's a colour and they don't have letters. What colour is 'red'? Here, on my setup, it is black.) – vanden Aug 14 '10 at 15:03
@ShreevatsaR, I'd've picked italics, rather than quotation marks. – TRiG Jan 21 '11 at 19:56
@Trig: Whatever typographical convention you use, mentioning the word (or using a mention of the word) is not the same as using the word. That was the point; see vanden's comment for examples. – ShreevatsaR Jan 22 '11 at 3:37
That was meant as a joke, sorry if that takes something away from the sanctity of the discussion. – Vaibhav Garg Jan 22 '11 at 7:29

I'd say your teacher was wrong in saying that. There are perfectly grammatical sentences beginning with "because". However, replying to "Why didn't you go to the cinema?" with "Because I had to work" is incorrect, obviously, because it is a fragment, not a sentence.

share|improve this answer
You go too far saying that response is "incorrect." It is perfectly valid to answer many questions with sentence fragments. "What color is your umbrella?" "Red." – Doug Sep 7 '10 at 17:29
You can use sentence fragments. It can be bad style in formal writing, but sentence fragments are valid on their own. They're not sentences, but they're still valid. – R. Martinho Fernandes Oct 13 '10 at 8:40

Because you can, it doesn't mean you should...

share|improve this answer

Because you asked this question here, I'm obliged to say yes.

share|improve this answer

It can be more poetic to begin with "because". Consider: "The world turns me on because it is round."

share|improve this answer
+1 For accurately refuting the accepted answer with a Beatles quote. Note that they didn't just start sentences with Because; they started the entire song with it. – T.E.D. Jul 8 '11 at 18:47

You can use it for emphasis.

"Did you skip school just because you were sick?"

"Because I was vomiting."

"Oh, sorry."

share|improve this answer
This is another good example I think of a situation where it is appropriate because most of the previous sentence (from a different speaker) is implicitly being tacked onto the front of the new one. – T.E.D. Jul 8 '11 at 18:34

Traditionally it might not have been considered grammatical, as because is a conjunction, so it needs two phrases to conjoin.

However, you will often hear it in spoken English. There is no real problem with this, if the first half of the sentence is somehow implied. For example, if someone asks you a Why... question, it is perfectly reasonable to start your answer with Because.... If it makes the language lawyers cringe, they can pretend the previous sentence has been implicitly reused as the first half of the new one.

share|improve this answer
'As we are out of cream you will have to make do with milk' is technically not proper English? Collins has an example of a sentence starting with a synonym: as ... conj (subordinating) ... 9. since; seeing that: [A]s you're in charge here, you'd better tell me where to wait. >> And one with because: [B]ecause it's so cold we'll go home.. The clauses joined both follow the subordinator (the reason clause before the consequence clause). – Edwin Ashworth May 22 at 10:09
@EdwinAshworth - You know...its been 4 years since I wrote this, and looking freshly upon it now I think you are right. An even better example IMHO can be found at the start of both stanzas in the Beatles song "Because". Those are perfectly valid sentences in there, and no stupid grammarian is going to tell me otherwise. – T.E.D. May 22 at 10:28
You're not addressing the full question. The sentence fragment ...'Because I say so!' might be frowned upon by some traditionalists, who insist upon full sentences (but forget their rule when they answer 'Yes' or say 'Hello'). But 'As it was raining I stayed at home.' is unarguably acceptable. – Edwin Ashworth May 22 at 10:40

In addition to what others have said, I'll just note that this usage is seen all throughout English literature. I'll give you just a single example, from Emily Dickinson's poem Because I could not stop for Death:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Feb 22 at 4:10

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.