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In high school, the teacher told me that because is used to answer “why” question, as below:

  • Why you are you using my shoes?
  • I am using your shoes because I like them.

However, the use of of after because looks like it changes the meaning to something completely different:

The sun hid its light because of the eclipse

How can I distinguish where I should use just a plain because without any of following it from where I should use the full because of phrase?

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@tchrist I don't believe any of these answers manix' question. – StoneyB Nov 15 '12 at 17:16
@StoneyB Don’t worry, I didn’t say they were the answers. I just said they were related. If I thought they answered the question, I would have closevoted as a dup, which I did not. – tchrist Nov 15 '12 at 17:19
@tchrist, all of them were useful :) – manix Nov 15 '12 at 17:25
I hope your teacher also told you that the question should be "Why are you using my shoes?". – DJClayworth Nov 15 '12 at 21:07
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Because is a conjunction, and introduces a subordinate clause giving an explanation of what is expressed in the main clause. Because of means ‘by reason of, on account of’ and is followed by a noun phrase.

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Really clear, Thank you! A single word can make a considerable difference in the meaning. – manix Nov 15 '12 at 17:21

This is actually a point of grammar, not usage.

Because is a subordinating conjunction that can introduce an entire tensed subordinate clause (such clauses must contain at least a subject and a tensed verb). But it can also introduce just a noun phrase, instead of a whole clause.

When because introduces a noun phrase -- and not a clause -- the conjunction because adds the preposition of, to become the complex preposition because of. It's that simple.

  • He left because we asked her to.
  • He left because of our request.
  • Because she intended to see us, she stayed until the end.
  • Because of her intention, she stayed until the end.

Note that embedded questions and other types of clauses are considered noun phrases:

  • He left because of what we said to her.
  • He left because of her getting so upset.
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