English Grammar

Is it OK to start a sentence with BECAUSE ?

Thanks to Elisabeth O´Brien from Grammar Revolution for another great BLOG entry on English grammar. This time Elisabeth asks a great question about whether or not one can start a sentence with the word “because”.

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Was My Teacher Right or Wrong?

In third grade, Mrs. Andersen taught me that I should never start a sentence with the word because. Is that correct, or was dear Mrs. Andersen wrong?

Dependent Clauses & Independent Clauses

First, we need a refresher on clauses. Clauses are groups of words that contain a subject and a verb. There are two types: dependent clauses and independent clauses.

Dependent clauses don’t express complete thoughts. If they’re used all by themselves, they are only sentence fragments.

after the sun went down because I was thirsty
Independent clauses express complete thoughts.

The party started. I drank three bottles of water.
Dependent clauses need to be connected to independent clauses in order to form complete sentences. The dependent clause can come before or after the independent clause. If it comes before the independent clause, it needs to be followed by a comma.

After the sun went down, the party started. I drank three bottles of water because I was thirsty.

Can You Start A Sentence With Because?

Because is a subordinating conjunction. Subordinating conjunctions introduce dependent clauses. They also join the dependent clause to the independent clause.

Contrary to Mrs. Andersen’s instruction, it can be okay to start sentences with because. Just make sure that you have a dependent clause followed by a comma and an independent clause, or you’ll most likely end up with a fragment rather than a complete sentence.

Because I was thirsty, I drank three bottles of water. Because it was cold, I wore my warm coat.

What’s A Teacher To Do?

If Mrs. Andersen would have let us third graders start sentences with because, we probably would have been handing in papers with sentence fragments, and she would have become very frustrated.

In order to understand when it’s okay and isn’t okay to start a sentence with because, one must first understand a bit of grammar.

Third graders are fairly young, and I’ll bet that Mrs. Andersen decided (quite legitimately) that we weren’t ready for lessons about dependent clauses.

However, instead of teaching us that starting a sentence with because is never okay, perhaps Mrs. Andersen could have told us that starting sentences with because is something that we’d learn to do later, after we knew more about grammar.

And then, of course, we should have had grammar lessons that taught us these concepts and more!

Enjoy learning English!