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I hear this all the time, and often from writers, but it never sounds right. I found myself using it in something I was writing.

For example: "Just because I stopped eating doesn't mean I'm full." Just the "just because A, doesn't mean B" sentence structure in general. Is it grammatically correct? If not, why not?

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Correlation is not causation. –  coleopterist Jan 2 '13 at 19:24
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7 Answers

This construction has been explored over on English Language & Usage, and there's an interesting and more thorough treatment here.

The bottom line is there's nothing "grammatically incorrect" about "Just because X doesn't mean Y", but there are definitely some peculiarities. Not least that we're happier with "mean", rather than alternatives such as "imply", "prove", "establish", "reflect", etc., which (grammatically speaking) are no different.

Having said that, this is more a question of style than grammar. But in that context it's worth noting that ELU has had at least three questions about the usage, so obviously people feel it's at least "slightly odd".

I think it's generally perceived as an idiomatic usage more appropriate to informal speech than formal writing. I personally don't think there's any real justification for that perception — but since it exists, the careful writer should take it into account. In short...

Just because the grammar is correct, doesn't mean people won't think it's "not quite right." If you don't want to distract your reader with pedantic side-issues, just choose a different form of words.

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In your second reference, Bender & Kathol 'argue that this construction combines semantic and syntactic quirks'. I think that this means they consider it to be an extragrammatical idiom. With extragrammatical idioms (all of a sudden, by and large, It's us, lead someone a merry dance, look daggers at, break wind ...) it's usually the degree of familiarity that determines whether or not they 'feel right'. If one forces oneself to examine even the familiar, well-loved ones in depth, feelings of unease may well develop. –  Edwin Ashworth Dec 30 '12 at 0:11
    
@Edwin: I did point out myself that just because has "peculiarities". I don't know "extragrammatical idioms", but all your examples are single self-contained phrases that don't/can't change. B&K say the “JB-X DM-Y construction combines semantic and syntactic quirks that necessitate a constructional analysis. They then show numerous variations allowed by the "grammar" of the construction, which they consider coherent in itself (if not entirely predictable from other "rules" of English grammar). The concept of extra/ungrammaticality simply isn't on their radar - or indeed mine! –  FumbleFingers Dec 30 '12 at 3:11
    
@EdwinAshworth Bender and Kathol are implicitly arguing that their approach to grammar, "construction grammar", is superior to non-constructional approaches (viz., Chomskyan transformational grammar) because, as @ FumbleFingers notes, they (i) assume that the consruction is grammatical, and (ii) a "grammar" of the construction would be very difficult to formulate in a non-construction framework (but can be formulated in their approach). –  jlovegren Dec 30 '12 at 4:43
    
The other page you've linked does not at all reach consensus that the construction is grammatically correct. Nor does describing it as a decoding idiom or the like suggest that it adheres to formal rules of grammar. Just because it's all right to use doesn't mean it's grammatically correct. –  Iucounu Jan 6 '13 at 3:15
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The logical equivalent of "Just because A, doesn't mean B” would be You should not infer B from A. I will leave it to the pedants to argue whether A does not imply B is a valid alternative.

Were you to say this in everyday conversation with the archetypal person-in-the-street, your (grammatically correct) statement would attract more negative reactions (as in "Oooh, hark at Mr La-de-da") than "Just because ..."

As others have noted, there are often grounds for breaking the strictures of grammar for deliberate effect.

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I agree with the scond part of Iucounu's answer: Whether it's valid logic and/or grammar or not is pretty much irrelevant if it's in dialog. Lots of people use the construction. Indeed, I'd say that in many cases dialog must use bad grammar to be convincing. Like, technically if someone asks who is there the grammatically correct reply is "It is I." But almost no one says that. People say, "It's me." If the character is a meticulous English teacher, perhaps she should say, "It is I." ANy other character should say, "It's me."

All that said, I don't see anything wrong with the construction. I must disagree with the first part of Iucounu's answer. THe word "just" is not superfluous here: at the least it adds emphasis. I suppose in a sense you could say that every emphasis word is superfluous in the sense that the sentence would be meaningful without it. Like suppose I wrote, "A very old man walked agonizingly slowly across the scorching hot field." Sure, I could drop all the intensifiers and just write, "An old man walked slowly across the hot field." Or even, "A man walked across the field." The essence of the sentence is the same. But dropping the modifiers and intensifiers not only drains the color from the sentence but potentially changes the meaning.

Some say that you should not begin a sentence with a conjunction. I categorically reject that rule. Sure, a conjuction that comes out of nowhere, i.e. that does not connect the sentence to anything previously said, makes no sense. But there are plenty of times when it is perfectly logical to being a sentence with a conjunction. (Like that sentence.) And the alternative may be to either omit the conjunction, thus losing the connection, or to make an excessively long sentence just so you can "legally" include it. (See, I slipped in another one.)

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For the sentence to be grammatical, it would need at least to be changed or added to slightly, e.g. "The fact that I stopped eating doesn't mean I'm full", or "Just because I've stopped eating, that doesn't make me full." –  Iucounu Dec 28 '12 at 21:24
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From a grammar standpoint, this is fairly straightforward.

The word "because" is a subordinating conjunction — words of this type are used to create dependent clauses (also called subordinate clauses), and that's what the phrase "Just because A" is. Clauses like this attach to the main part of the sentence — the independent clause. Wikipedia on dependent clauses(1):

In linguistics, a dependent clause (sometimes called a subordinate clause) is a clause that augments an independent clause with additional information, but which cannot stand alone as a sentence. Dependent clauses either modify the independent clause of a sentence or serve as a component of it.

This is quite clear — the dependent clause has some relation to the independent clause of the sentence. The role of independent clause in our case is taken by "doesn't mean B", but it lacks something. This can be described by grammar (although of course grammar itself is not the reason it's incorrect, it's just a way of describing how we in general use language to make sense). I quote Wikipedia(2):

An independent clause (or main clause) is a clause that can stand by itself, also known as a simple sentence. An independent clause contains a subject and a predicate; it makes sense by itself.

Clearly, our purportedly independent clause is not very independent — it cannot stand by itself, because it does not have a subject. We have a dependent clause, but no independent clause, and that's not grammatical English.

(1) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dependent_clause
(2) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_clause

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No, that isn't correct. "Just because" in that sentence is used in the sense of "since"; in trying to understand the sense in which it's being used, it should be acceptable to discard "just". It would be closer to correct to say something such as, "Because I stopped eating, I must be full", even though clunkily back-to-front, but one should not use this sort of construction to convey the opposite. The speaker/writer is simply choosing the wrong construction to mean something like "The fact that I've stopped eating should not be taken to show/mean/imply that I'm full." "Just because" means "only because" in that construction, and it's incorrect to use a conjunction there in that way. Also, on a logical basis, of course it can't be literally true that any person who has stopped eating can be assumed to be full.

(ETA: Note that describing something as an "decoding idiom" or suchlike terms, as in a linked paper from another answer, does not support an argument that the construction fits existing grammar rules. There's not much room for argument that this is proper grammar, though it may be so common that we should accept it on that basis.)

I don't think that's the end of the inquiry, though. This sort of construction is used all the time by real people, and might form part of believable dialogue for many types of characters: a child, adult without much language-arts education in English, a smart person proud of working-class roots, etc. You know the people I mean — the same ones who might say "I could care less" without agonizing over whether they're being sarcastic. If it feels right, it might be right in context. Real people can be expected to use incorrect grammar in a wide range of situations, and acknowledging that might sometimes be to the aid of realism and character development. I'm reminded of Michelle Pfeiffer's Frankie yelling over a bathroom stall at Al Pacino as Johnny, "Fuck you, how I talk!"

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I don't think "since" is a particularly useful word in the context of Just because X, doesn't mean Y. It's more a case of Despite X, Y isn't [necessarily] true. –  FumbleFingers Dec 30 '12 at 4:57
    
@FumbleFingers: I think that your feeling is due to the fact that this isn't a properly structured statement. "Just because", read literally, would mean "only because", so the statement parses roughly, though in broken fashion, as "The mere fact of X doesn't imply Y", or "X, without more, doesn't imply Y". –  Iucounu Jan 2 '13 at 19:20
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Such a sentence is grammatically incorrect. Every clause needs a predicate and a subject that executes said predicate. The clause "Just because X doesn't mean Y" has a predicate ("doesn't mean Y") but it does not have a subject executing that predicate. There is no subject, therefore the sentence is incomplete. The sentence must be formulated in a way that there is a subject. For instance: "The fact that X doesn't imply Y".

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So far as I can see, your argument hinges on the validity of a supposed "rule" that a clause starting with “because” can’t be a subject. I must be honest and admit that I'd never heard of any such principle before I just found it there. But it seems like complete rubbish anyway, probably somehow arrived at by pedants trying to figure out how to legislate against more obviously flawed constructions like "Because I'm still hungry is why I want more food". –  FumbleFingers Apr 8 at 22:03
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The construction is grammatically correct, but it's dispreferred because it's a cop out--a way of excusing yourself from having to defend your position. Literally, just because A doesn't mean B means:

It is not the case that A entails B.

What it implicates is:

  • In most situations where B is true, A is also true.
  • Because of this, you could be forgiven for believing that A entails B.
  • But to believe so would be to jump to a hasty conclusion.
  • B is most likely false.

The reason I say that the construction is a cop out is that people will frequently (especially in conversation) use it, and not bother to say anything about whether B is true or false (which is usually the whole point of the argument).

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