Can You Start a Sentence With “Because”? Oh Heck Yeah, You Can

Can You Start a Sentence With “Because”? Oh Heck Yeah, You Can

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Can you start a sentence with “because”? 

The short and simple answer is yes, you can. 

Yet it seems that a lot of people don’t know this and think you can’t.

We’ve been asked this question numerous times by readers of our “word nerd” books and listeners of our NPR-affiliated podcast “You’re Saying It Wrong.” 

Maybe it’s because it was drummed into their heads as kids by well-meaning adults who thought “don’t start a sentence with ‘because’” was a rule (like so many other “grammar rules,” it isn’t), or maybe it’s because they’ve seen it used incorrectly (it often is). 

But for whatever reason, people often avoid starting a sentence with “because.” 

Can you start a sentence with because?

Because this happens so often, let’s cut to the chase.

Yes, you can absolutely start a sentence with “because.”

And…you caught that, didn’t you? Right there we started a sentence with “because,” and it’s completely correct.  

Why? Because it’s used at the opening of a subordinate clause that’s connected to a main clause and—

Wait a second! We just did it again, but in a different way! See, as you just read, there are actually two different but completely acceptable ways of starting a sentence with “because.” 

Starting a sentence with because: Two ways that work

The thing with “because” is that it’s a subordinate conjunction, which means it’s usually used to connect two clauses — a subordinate clause and a main clause. A subordinate clause is, yes, subordinate to the main one; it describes it. 

As such, it’s not a stand-alone sentence like the main clause is. When you start a sentence with “because,” you have to be sure that you use both clauses to make the sentence a complete one, like this: 

“Because I’m confused, I’m reading about starting sentences.”  

It’s a perfectly legal sentence. No grammar guru can complain about it. If you split it into two discrete units, however, that guru would get quite perturbed.

“Because I’m confused. I’m reading about starting sentences.”

This doesn’t work because the first clause isn’t a complete sentence on its own. It’s a sentence fragment. To be correct grammatically, it needs to be followed by the second clause, the main one. 

That’s the rule of thumb about starting a sentence with “because” — you need two parts to the sentence, two clauses connected by a comma, to make it work. 

Nice and simple, right? 

But this is English. And English has a way of bending the rules, so here we go… 

Another way to start a sentence with because

There is another time when you can start a sentence with “because” and not follow that two clause rule: if you’re using it conversationally to answer a spoken or unspoken “why” question. 

The perfect example of this is the time-honored kid-to-parent question: “Why can’t I stay out later?” “Because I said so” is a perfectly acceptable (albeit infuriating) answer.  

Persnickety nitpickers would argue that it’s not correct, that it’s a fragment that needs a rewrite. They’re right …technically. 

But most modern grammarians and writers disagree and feel it’s fine to use in more casual writing, when you’re trying to sound conversational, and, of course, when you’re writing dialogue. 

Pick up virtually any novel and you’ll see a lot of questions being answered with “Because I …” constructs. Clearly this is one of those times when it’s good to break grammar rules.

And there you have it, two distinct and accepted ways of using “because” to start a sentence: either as the opener to a subordinate clause that preposes the following clause, or as a conversational way of answering a “why” question. 

So don’t listen if anyone tells you that you can’t start a sentence with “because.” Why not? Because we say so, of course. (And, no, you can’t stay out later. Not until you’ve finished writing.)

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Photo via Lucky Business / Shutterstock 

Filed Under: Craft
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8 comments

  • James says:

    I still cannot make a sentence starting with because .. I suck.. I need to practice more.

  • You make grammar rules funny 🙂 On a serious note, I’ve had several encounters with people who think that starting a sentence with “because” equals poor writing skills. It doesn’t.

  • Michelle says:

    I’m so glad I came across your article! I want to use “because” in the beginning of a sentence to answer the implied question… “Why choose us?” Do I actually need to add the question? Because of how the sentences work together, I don’t see how they can be grouped together without sounding awkward.

  • Hi, Thanks for sharing useful information. I wanted to know if we can start sentence with there is, there are, this is, and it is, and with conjunction? Please share your feedback.

  • Glad you enjoyed it! As for those people who think starting a sentence with “because” isn’t good writing, tell them they might want to “correct” Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Jonathan Franzen, among others! (Oy! Nothing more infuriating than people who correct you incorrectly!) Cheers!

  • Neha —

    You asked if you could start a sentence with there is, there are, this is, and it is, and/or with conjunctions? Absolutely! In all of these instances, they’re “legal” ways to start a sentence … so have at it!

    Cheers!

  • Michelle —

    You said you wanted to used “Because” as an opener to answer an implied “Why choose us?”

    It’s a toughie to be sure how it’ll read without actually seeing it, but if it’s clearly an implied question, sure, the opening “because” should work fine. The key is, as you noted, avoiding awkward construction — so, as long as it’s clear you’re answering the implied question and it doesn’t read as through you’re just dumping a fragment in there, it should be fine.

    Cheers!

  • Mike says:

    Don’t get angry! 😉 They are not incorrect. You’re both correct. English language has rules that you can at times surpass.

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