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Multiple questions herein ask "Is it grammatically correct to begin a sentence or question with X?"

So, I'm definitively asking, are there any words for which it is absolutely not grammatically correct to begin a sentence with?

I am not looking for a list, and I'm not (effectively) looking for a class of words, though that may be evident if a specific word is presented, but only as a part of

_____ is an example, and words like _____.

I am not looking for discussion, either. I would assume the answer is No, you may grammatically start a sentence with any word. but would like to be proven incorrect.

Than any other question, this one should actually have an answer.

Also, no quotation mark tricks or the like. The word should have grammatical context and retain its own definition in place. Filling in the example also does not count for the answer. (Use, not mention).

The word should itself be grammatically acceptable. If ain't is not grammatically acceptable, then it ain't allowed as a word in this context.

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    Using a word-as-a-word, obviously any word may be fronted. However, strictly post-positive adjectives etc like manqué and galore otherwise seem to fit the bill. Some 'fossil words' (eg amok, ado, 'Kaboodle_) only occur at the end of a set string. Jan 19, 2015 at 15:15
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    For any word X, it would be possible to say "X is a word that cannot grammatically begin a sentence." So, no.
    – Robusto
    Jan 19, 2015 at 15:18
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    A: "There were apples galore on the table." B: "Galore? You exaggerate. There were two apples." Is B ungrammatical? Jan 19, 2015 at 15:24
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    @Mitch: "Gotten gains are always ill."
    – Robusto
    Jan 19, 2015 at 15:28
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    @Sven Yargs: Imagine a world where a sentence like "Multitude upon multitude dashed against the walls of the fort" was considered invalid. Could've happened in this world, I suppose, but didn't. But "Imagines" - that's a good one! I prefer it to the "fragment of a compound phrase" answers, because of the requirement in the OP that it be grammatical. If "nother" and "yore" aren't grammatical outside of the compound phrase, then they don't fit the bill! Jan 19, 2015 at 19:31

8 Answers 8

16

Yore.

Yore means of long ago, or former times, but it seems only ever to be used in the phrase In days of yore. Are there any other uses of this word?

Edit

Come to that, it would be hard to begin a sentence with Ago.

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    @Araucaria Thanks :) Actually I'm not sure if OP hasn't answered his/her own question by beginning a sentence with 'Than' ... I'm not sure that works....
    – Mynamite
    Jan 19, 2015 at 16:59
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    But would it be ungrammatical to start a sentence, even if it were unusual to do so? I'll accept a definitive answer that words that only appear in set phrases can't start a sentence. I think that's somewhat cheating if the word can be separated from the set phrase otherwise.
    – SrJoven
    Jan 19, 2015 at 19:02
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    'Yore' fails, I feel, since it is a fragment of a compound phrase, and would be nongrammatical in any part of the sentence outside of that compound phrase. 'Ago" is good. It's non-compound, and stands alone as a modifier to any duration. Like the post-positives, this seems to fall into the class of "words that only get appended to stuff", which can't help but be correct answers to the question. Than this, the only other class I've seen that would fit, is whatever class "imagines" fits into. Imagines, one does, that these too might be an answer. Jan 19, 2015 at 19:46
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    Is this answer not in itself disproving itself? "Yore means of long ago,..." is a sentence starting with Yore.
    – Vality
    Jan 20, 2015 at 4:53
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    On another comment thread a couple of weeks ago, responding to a comment about the difference between "knowing your shit" and "knowing you're shit," I noted that "Etymology is a matter of knowing yore shit." But I could have recast the sentence as, "Yore shit is what etymology is all about knowing."
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 20, 2015 at 6:54
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The word:

  • galore

... is, so far as I know only used post-positively. This is to say, it always follows the noun it's modifying.

  • There was whisky galore.

I suppose other words such as this (I once heard a linguist describe it as a post-positive determiner!), which only post-modify nouns, would would be well-nigh impossible to start a sentence with. One such example would be the word aplenty. Here's an ungrammatical example for you:

  • *Aplenty were the treats. (ungrammatical)

Of course it is trivially true that any word can be cited at the beginning of a sentence:

  • "Aplenty" is a difficult word to start a sentence with.

But, as I said this is not important to the OP's question!

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    I find "Aplenty were the treats" unobjectionable. Quite poetic, in fact. It's just a hyperbaton, is all. Can't say the same about "Galore there was whisky". Really two different leagues.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 19, 2015 at 16:17
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    There's no inherent reason that any adjective would be improper grammar beginning a sentence. I'm quite willing to accept poetic license. Galore were the treats, and aplenty were the guests. is completely grammatical.
    – SrJoven
    Jan 19, 2015 at 17:52
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    @Araucaria It depends whom you ask
    – SrJoven
    Jan 19, 2015 at 18:54
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    I can't, as I feel this sort of question doesn't really fulfil the aims of the site. It's certainly entertaining, but then so is decent football. Jan 19, 2015 at 23:05
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    Galore, galore, galore: there was whiskey galore.
    – pazzo
    Jan 20, 2015 at 5:37
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An answer for myself: If a noun requires an article to be grammatically correct within a sentence, it is required at the beginning of a sentence, and the article cannot be used in post position or in absence while retaining the sense of the noun.

There may always be a way to make a given noun work, but if it is in a countable sense—one that requires an article or number—it must likewise have that article or number before the noun in the beginning of a sentence.

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    Can you give an example? Jan 19, 2015 at 23:20
  • @chase Give me a minute. I was thinking something like an hour or so. But Hour has passed. works quite well.
    – SrJoven
    Jan 19, 2015 at 23:36
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    @SrJoven: I don't think "Hour has passed" is a grammatically-correct sentence, but "Hour after hour, day after day, he found himself wishing for a new fnorble to replace his old one."
    – supercat
    Jan 19, 2015 at 23:39
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    @fredsbend try again. The United States is a great place to visit. United States representatives declined to go to France.
    – SrJoven
    Jan 20, 2015 at 1:14
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    Seems like nouns requiring a determiner can open boldly as the topic, with the determiner coming later: 1. Cars, the ones I bought for dad, are ready for delivery. 2. Car, that is, a blue one I saw yesterday, is righteous. 3. Car, that is, the one on the lawn, needs removing.
    – pazzo
    Jan 20, 2015 at 5:32
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I don't think it is correct to start a question with 'How to...' I have seen people use this, but it just doesn't seem right to me! Please correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe that 'How to..' should only be used at the beginning of a statement, not question. E.g. How to improve my English instantly? INCORRECT / How to improve your English instantly. CORRECT

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    Welcome to ELU. The to in your examples goes with the verb, not how, and the question was asking about words which definitely cannot start a sentence (either statement or question). How is obviously a word which can occur first. In fact How to can even occur in a question, albeit colloquially: "How do I do that?" "How to do that? Well, first you..." [Please note that Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum. Answers should simply answer the question, quoting justification for the answer.]
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 26, 2015 at 8:34
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In written academic English, it is acceptable to begin a sentence with a subject gerund.

"Drinking and driving is dangerous."

While beginning a sentence with an infinitive is common in spoken English, it is usually not considered proper written academic English.

A: Why did you ask this question? B: To satisfy my curiosity.

Even the longer form using 'in order to' is not proper written academic English.

A: Why did you ask this question? B: In order to satisfy my curiosity.

In other words, I would never begin a sentence with 'to' on a research paper that I planned on submitting to a college professor. Furthermore, my students are instructed not to do so either.

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  • To be honest, Gigi, I don't agree with your answer. But I don't mind you posting it. What would help your point, though, and actually what is required in answers here, is a reference or two to some authority, with attribution. If you edited your post to include such support for your views, they would be taken more seriously... and I might agree with you after all.
    – Margana
    Jul 12, 2015 at 1:24
  • OP did not specify 'written academic English'. And you artificially engineer context. Obviously, 'Secondly, ...' is ridiculous in certain contexts. I cannot imagine anyone complaining about a non-response sentence starting 'In order to ...' or just 'To [further] investigate ...'. Jul 12, 2015 at 22:45
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    To clarify, you wouldn't present a paper that began with To. In order to be sure that was correct, I believe I should put my documentation in order.
    – SrJoven
    Jul 13, 2015 at 13:49
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What about else? It is an adverb that is used in a similar manner to the post-positive adjectives referred to by Edwin Ashworth in his comment (which should be an answer).

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    If 'a' is true, assign 1 to the variable 'b'. Else, assign 2.
    – neminem
    Jan 19, 2015 at 18:18
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    @neminem It sounds like a short form of or else. But Instructions often take a telegraph form (dropping articles, etc.) and, while not standard grammatical form, are not considered ungrammatical.
    – bib
    Jan 19, 2015 at 18:21
  • Well, I'm a programmer, so I was speaking in programmer-jargon. We talk like that (when we're talking about code). :p
    – neminem
    Jan 19, 2015 at 18:34
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    I'd treat else like than
    – SrJoven
    Jan 19, 2015 at 19:12
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    "Else what?" is a common and acceptable interrogative. It may be too short a question to meet the OPs criteria. Jan 19, 2015 at 19:56
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It depends on who is writing what. I can't imagine a grammatical sentence beginning with an objective pronoun ("Us......"). Poets and writers in general will always find a way, though. Of course, as mentioned by Robusto, one can always begin a sentence with any word and add "...is a word that..." but that would be a tricky way to answer.

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    Us linguists disagree! :-) Jan 19, 2015 at 15:22
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    Sure, you can start a sentence with an objective pronoun. "Most people don't like going to the dentist. Me, I love it." Jan 19, 2015 at 15:22
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    @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 And you call that grammatical?
    – Centaurus
    Jan 19, 2015 at 15:26
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    Yes. It's a topic-comment sentence. Please explain why it would be ungrammatical. Jan 19, 2015 at 15:26
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    @Centaurus I hate that whole family, except Jack. Him I like. Jan 20, 2015 at 2:00
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What about 'and'? I'm pretty sure it isn't grammatically correct at the start of a sentence

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