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"It was great because of improving my English."

A non-native speaker produced this sentence recently in a piece of writing, “it” being an English language course that she had attended a few years ago. The sentence seems to follow the rules (mostly) but, for me, the sentence feels uncomfortable.

One could, of course, correct it to: "It was great because I improved my English."

But I have been trying in vain to find a way to make "because of + non-finite verb+ing clause” work in this instance.

Strangely, in a similar sentence a “despite + non-finite verb+ing clause” works: -

“It was good despite not improving my English.” Or: “It wasn’t good despite improving my English.”

So why can’t we do the same with “because of”?

Is it that this conjunction doesn’t sanction verb+ing clauses? Is it restricted to noun phrases only. For example, it seems okay to say: “It was good because of the improvements (that I/it made) to my English.”

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  • the sentence: "It was great because I improved my English.", is different. What about: "It was great because of the aspect involving improving my English." or "It was great because of the part of the course relating to improving my English." Note that "the course relating to improving my English" may exist, and be a good thing, even if (in fact) you didn't improve your English at all.
    – Fattie
    Sep 9, 2014 at 7:38
  • "It was a great class because of its teacher/curriculum/materials etc.." Otherwise: "It was a great class because of her (the teacher) teaching style"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 9, 2014 at 8:34
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    "It was great in that it improved my English" highlights the result. "It was great, really improving my English" also works. But the 'because of' preposition would only normally be used to point to inherent, not consequent, points of merit: "It was great, because of all the attention to detail". Sep 9, 2014 at 8:35
  • Perhaps she is trying to get published in BuzzFeed. No, I suppose that would be because improving my English.
    – choster
    Sep 10, 2014 at 13:54
  • The reason it's unaaceptable, I reckon, is because such cobstructions only allow the subject of the verb in the subordinate clause to be omitted when it apprears as a subject or object in the main clause. Therefore all that's needed to repare it is to include the missing subject It was great because of me/my improving my English Sep 12, 2014 at 17:33

3 Answers 3

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"It was great because of the improvement to my English" would work. Leaving off the "of", however, would allow more freedom in the choice of words that could be used to finish off the sentence.

You have already highlighted one example: "It was great because I improved my English." When you use the "of" with the word "because", you are restricting the word choice to nominal groups (nouns and noun groups), thus requiring phrases such as, "the improvement to my English" or "the improving standard of my English language skills."

Because of = phrasal preposition (open to corrections on this one), requiring a nominal group Because = cause and effect binding conjunction*, linking two sentences to form a complex sentence (a subordinate clause and an insubordinate clause) (aka primary and secondary clauses or dependent and independent clauses)

Using the conjunction allows more flexibility. Here is another example: "It was great because all of my friends noticed a significant improvement in my English writing and conversation skills."

"It was good despite not improving my English" and the original sentence in question are not comparable. One uses the present participle, the other is wanting to use the gerund.

The following examples should make this clear: It was good, improving my English. It was good, not improving my English. (Although illogical, it is grammatically correct.) It was good, despite (it) not improving my English.

When using the preposition, "because of", the definite article really needs to precede the gerund, for the sentence not to sound "uncomfortable". Using the nominalised form, "improvement", will always sound better in this case, though, rather than trying to stick with the gerund, "improving". In both cases, though, you are using a nominal group, and not a present participle, and that is the way it should be.

  • Martin J.R. English Text: System and Structure 1992, p 179. John Benjamins Publishing
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  • If you ask Geoffrey Pullum, then because is a preposition that can take either nothing, a noun phrase, a prepositional phrase, or a clause as its object. Sep 10, 2014 at 13:58
  • Thanks for the link. An interesting read from a highly qualified linguist of TGG pedigree (from what I can tell). Thankfully, the concept of a binding conjunction doesn't get a mention in his argument, so I'll let that stay.
    – Laurence
    Sep 10, 2014 at 16:08
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Why use "because of"? I think the most natural way to express the idea would be: The course was great because I could improve my English considerably. Normaly "because of" is followed by a noun or a noun group. If someone connects "because of" with a gerund construction this sounds a bit funny as it shows that the speaker or writer can't handle the simplest and most frequent clause with "because" indicating reason and tries to build sentences in a stilted manner.

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"Because" indicates a cause and effect. As the sentence is written, one would think that the improvement in the student's English made the course great. A better sentence structure would be "My English improved because it (the course) was great".

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  • I think you're changing the original speaker's intent here. While you might disagree with the original speaker about how to rate classes, it is possible to rate classes based on how they help you, and that's what the original speaker wanted to do. Sep 14, 2014 at 1:29
  • As I cannot know the exact intent of the original speaker, I focused upon the query, which addressed the reason the sentence "felt" off.
    – Shebupp
    Sep 14, 2014 at 1:33

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