Which is correct?

Because he reads, Bob knows a lot.


Because Bob reads, he knows a lot.

Assuming the former, the follow-up question is, what happens with "when", "as", "after" and other conjunctions?

Are these also correct?

As she read the letter, Alice smiled.
When she heard the news, Alice called Bob.
After she ate, Alice went for a walk.

  • This involves the issue of anticipatory anaphora. Sometimes anticipatory anaphora may be obligatory. You might want to research that topic. :)
    – F.E.
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 15:48
  • 1
    @F.E. Thank you. From "The Oxford Dictionary of Pragmatics", p46: A cataphor is a linguistic expression that derives its interpretation from an antecedent which comes later than it, e. g. "After he entered the kitchen, John turned the heater on." Cataphora (also anticipatory anaphora) is the name given to such a relationship where the antecedent comes later.
    – semantax
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 22:21

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure which perspective you're asking for, prescriptivist or descriptivist, but in either case, your sentences are fine. That's just my opinion as a native speaker and an English teacher (and hence, I guess, covers at least the descriptivist case). If you're looking for sources, though:

Fowler (or at least Burchfield; I have only the third ed. on me) has an entry for cataphoric; if there's something questionable about its usage, it goes unmentioned.

From Chicago (15th ed.):

Some writers foreshadow a point before the predicate by placing the pronoun before the antecedent, but this device can cause confusion {whether they agreed with her or not, most participants in the survey said the senator made some good points} (the pronoun they precedes most participants, and her comes before the antecedent senator; the writer leaves the reader hanging awhile). Such an anticipatory reference often permissibly occurs in constructions involving like, as do, or as have {like his colleagues, Mr. Turino hopes to win reelection}.

So, at least according to Chicago, it's fine, as long as you don't go overboard.


They are both correct. Which to use in a given context is a matter of taste more than anything. Whichever sounds right to you.

And all three of your subsequent sentences are correct.

  • I doubt if both are correct. Any references?
    – semantax
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 22:22
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    @semantax: I don't have references (though I'm sure they could be found), just nearly fifty years of using the language. Why do you doubt they can both be right? Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 6:19
  • i remember being explicitly taught otherwise, but it was a long while ago. i myself taught somebody that only one form is correct, and i wanted to make sure i wasn't teaching the wrong thing.
    – semantax
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 9:36
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    @semantax: You were taught incorrectly, and apparently you've already passed on that invalid information to others (regardless of which form you told them was "correct", since as Martin says, this is simply a matter of style). Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 12:20
  • @FumbleFingers It may be one of things where what used to be wrong became so pervasive that it is accepted; I learned British English. Regardless, not much harm done because the form that I learned and taught as correct is the cataphoric form (see comments on the question). The rationale for it being "more correct" is that such sentences are deliberately rearranged for emphasis, and keeping the pronoun in its original phrase preserves the emphasis, otherwise the added emphasis is diluted.
    – semantax
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 1:50

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