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Are You Really Not Allowed to Start a Sentence with And, But or Because?

Starting a sentence with "and", "but" or "because" may not be discouraged when it comes to informal writing.
In formal writing situations, it may be considered sloppy to start a sentence with "and", "but" or "because".
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  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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While it is never advisable to use the word "never" when it comes to English grammar rules, many grammarians still considered it unacceptable to start a sentence with and, but or because. In their opinion, doing so creates a sentence fragment, not a complete sentence. "And," "but" and "because" are used primarily to join two independent phrases together and create a relationship between them.

If you start a sentence with and, for example, it can be argued that you are actually creating one half of a more complex sentence. And people who are strict grammarians may object. The proper use of "and" calls for a conjoining of two separate ideas which are more or less equal in importance: "The coffee is in the pantry AND the eggs are in the refrigerator." There is an equal relationship between the coffee and the eggs, and the conjunction and establishes this. If you start a sentence with And, you are weakening that sentence unnecessarily.

The same grammatical rules apply when you start a sentence with But, but many people seem to feel more comfortable breaking with tradition here. The relationship between two contrary or opposite phrases could be established with the conjunction but: "I wanted to see a movie, BUT my wife wanted to read a book." The word "but" should not be used to start a sentence, because the relationship has not been established yet. But some people consider this rule to be a bit archaic.

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There are, in fact, many examples in both literature and formal professional writing in which both And and But are used at the beginning of sentences. In many of these cases, the way in which these conjunctive words are used can add style and specific shades of meaning to the sentence. Although not all grammar experts agree that And and But should not be used at the start of a sentence, you may encounter resistance should you choose to use them in this way.

It is perfectly acceptable to start certain sentences with Because, as long as the sentence contains a cause-and-effect relationship: "Because the principal will not be in the building, the assembly has been postponed." This is a proper sentence, because there is a definite cause-and-effect implied. Some writers, however, may choose to use "Because" at the beginning of a sentence without such a relationship. Why would they do this? Because it works under the right circumstances.

When it comes to informal writing, it would be impossible to say a writer cannot start a sentence with and, but or because. As long as the message as a whole has been communicated effectively to the reader, the occasional sentence fragment posing as a complete thought shouldn't be completely discouraged. In more formal writing situations, however, a writer should rarely if ever start a sentence with and, but or because unless it is used to recreate the authentic dialogue of a quoted character. Otherwise, it is largely considered a sloppy practice among professional writers.

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anon974252
Post 19

@anon332539- I'd say the problem with starting a sentence with "Because" is that it's no longer a sentence. You could take the word out and still have a coherent answer: "Why did she cross the street? She wanted to meet her friends." You could even add a detail like "She wanted to meet her friends, that's why." When you start with Because, you end up with an incomplete sentence.

Having said that, I personally don't have a problem with people using And or Because in creative writing. It gets the point across. I might write "And *why* did she cross the road, you might ask? Because she wanted to meet her friends, obviously." It wouldn't be strictly grammatically correct, but it would be an interesting variation that posed a rhetorical question between the author and the reader.

anon332539
Post 18

Is it acceptable to start a sentence with "because" if it is the answer to a question starting with "Why"? For example: Why did she cross the street? Because she wanted to meet with her friends.

anon323327
Post 17

How about: And so, I moved on.

anon210502
Post 14

In paragraph two, you did exactly that -- used "And" at the start of a sentence.

anon159037
Post 13

See the thing is, I have not been in a profession where writing has been needed. Things were all done in personal conversations. In this day and age where everything seems to be done by email now, it's all changed. What I want to know if there is a way I can type out what I want to say then go somewhere and have it checked to see what mistakes are made?

anon159028
Post 12

I, for one, have horrible grammar and feel like a moron when needing to communicate. I am trying to learn proper grammar but am finding it difficult. I am just looking for some tips or good advice where and how to go about it.

Thank you.

anon152356
Post 11

I think using the words but, and, or because to start a sentence is the effect of one to many hours spent in a chat room. I have, on occasion, also seen the comma replaced with a dash. This is also an effect of too much time spent on the internet socializing. Most arguments over the proper way to start a sentence involve those of a younger age who merely seek drama.

anon119760
Post 10

@anon115278: Actually, it isn't a coordinating conjunction, although it is still "perfectly correct". It's a subordinating conjunction.

A coordinating conjunction joins two independent clauses that are considered equal, while a subordinating conjunction will emphasize the main clause over the subordinate clause.

In the example, "Because the principal will not be in the building, the assembly has been postponed.", the main clause is "the assembly has been postponed". This is more important than the subordinate clause "the principal will not be in the building", which is simply explaining why the assembly has been postponed. The cause of the assembly being postponed (the principal not being in the building) is not as important as the effect (that it is postponed). Which would lead one to assume that cause and effect may have something to do with it after all.

Your example of how not to use "because" was correct though.

The way I tell my students to check their sentences that begin with "because" is to see if you can change the format but form the same idea.

Ex. 1: "Because the principal will not be in the building, the assembly has been postponed."

Ex.2: "The assembly has been postponed because the principal will not be in the building."

The subordinate clause still comes after the subordinating conjunction in both cases, so they are both correct. Note, however, that there is no comma necessary in the second example. This is because it is not a coordinating conjunction which, as you pointed out, does require a comma.

An example of a coordinating conjunction would be the following: "The assembly has been postponed, and the principal will not be in the building."

In this case, the two clauses are of equal importance and are coordinated by the conjunction "and".

anon119527
Post 9

Explain this to me: Why is it OK to start a sentence with "however" but not "but"? The meaning is exactly the same in both instances. I'll tell you why. Someone arbitrarily created that rule a long time ago.

anon115278
Post 8

It is not only "perfectly acceptable" to start certain sentences with "Because," it is perfectly correct and always was. Look up your Strunk and White. "Because the principal will not be in the building, the assembly has been postponed." Of course that is a perfect sentence. Coordinating conjunction. It's all in the comma. Nothing to do with cause and effect.

Here is the wrong way to use "because" at the beginning of a sentence. "I am not going to school today. Because I didn't do my homework."

Your explanation "Because it works under the right circumstances." is lousy. Two different usages. One right, one wrong.

jasonpointer
Post 7

@anon109747: Good jab. Here is your logic. I think I am right because all English rules must be black and white. While there are some examples to the contrary, I will not attempt to explain why I am right and they are wrong. To the contrary, I will just make some snide remark to one commentator and make some overreaching generalization (i.e., redneck) to another.

As an aside, when the first thing that pops out of your mouth is a comment like "redneck," it sounds like you're just one of a dime-a-dozen pompous northerners. That's fine, keep thinking that. And while you do that, just note that a fair amount of the American population as well as jobs are moving to the southeast and southwest.

anon109747
Post 6

yes, it's fine if you want to sound like a redneck.

anon107908
Post 5

Just because people have used and will continue using it in literature does not make it grammatically sound.

anon100715
Post 4

I find it ironic that a grammar "expert" uses the phrase "I feel that..." People feel feelings but think thoughts. The correct way to have said this would have been "I think that..." or "I believe that..."

ellaesans
Post 3

@baileybear - I disagree and think that if you know and understand proper grammar and the English language, you should *always* use it in the proper context. I feel that when you use poor grammar or spelling it makes you look like you don't know what you're doing - but that's just me.

The English language is actually very difficult and has a lot more rules than many of the other languages throughout the world, so it's understandable when people want to be a little less strict with it. This is one rule I completely support, though I must say even I don't use it correctly all the time either.

baileybear
Post 2

The best way to explain this rule would be to say that you shouldn't use this type of grammar when you're compiling a professional work. Meaning that you shouldn't begin a sentence with "And" or "But" when you're working on a professional thesis, student works, or company proposal. I feel that when you're writing for your own purposes or enjoyment - say in a journal or letter - I think it's perfectly acceptable to write however you'd like. I often times write just how people would talk, even though it isn't proper grammar, it still usually makes more sense.

jasonpointer
Post 1

The greatest example of how And and But can be used at the beginning of a sentence can be seen in the penmanship of the Justices on the United States Supreme Court. I did not have time to look up cases authored by greats such as Justice Benjamin Cardozo and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes--who both started sentences with "And . . . ." or "But . . . .", even though their writing styles were completely different--but here are examples from a more recent Supreme Court case: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

Justice Stevens: "And that authority, if it exists, can derive only from the powers granted jointly to the President and Congress in time of war."

Justice Scalia: "But they surely gave Congress ample reason to doubt that their application in pending cases would unfold as naturally as the Court glibly assumes."

Don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself. In particular, I would suggest reading any book authored by Bryan Garner concerning writing.

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